COMMERCIAL: An acute trust has become the first NHS organisation to launch a new health records management system, which providers estimate could save up to £100m if introduced nationwide.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust’s patient records have all been fitted with electronic tags devised by technology consultants 6PM which allow staff to track their exact whereabouts at any time.

The trust has already achieved efficiencies as a result including a 23 per cent reduction instantly in medical record staff.

If similar efforts were made across the acute sector, where some hospitals spend £1.5m on records services alone, some £50m to £100m of saving could be achievable, 6PM deputy chief executive Steve Wightman told HSJ.

Jackie Brown, health record services at Surrey and Sussex, said the new system, which is based on radio frequency identification (RFID) technology was very easy to use and far more efficient.

Ms Brown told HSJ that the scheme was a good interim arrangement to prepare for a future in which all patient records are stored electronically – an ambition the government has pledged will become a reality by 2015.

“The ultimate goal is electronic records and this is a pre-requisite to that. It is also making the process more efficient in the meantime,” she said.

Ms Brown added that because the system was better at ensuring patient records would not get lost, the trust was also able to secure a better deal with its insurers.

The RFID technology allows records to be automatically tracked as they are transported around the hospital by Motorola SmartMobile handheld devices. The devices also allow the user to quickly locate an individual record that could be amongst several hundred records in a secretarial office or clinic.