Clinical commissioning groups must submit digital roadmaps to NHS England by April next year, outlining how they will “eradicate the use of paper in the treatment of patients across all health and care services in their region by 2020.”

Guidance on the roadmaps will be released at NHS Expo in Manchester tomorrow, by NHS England’s director of patients and information Tim Kelsey.

This will include a new set of key digital standards that healthcare providers must implement as part of their standard NHS contract.

NHS England has said it will introduce new “levers and incentives” to encourage the adoption of digital working and that CCGs will be “held to account” for meeting agreed milestones. CCGs will be told to start work now on their roadmaps in order to submit them by the April deadline.

From November, CCGs and providers will also be asked to complete a self-assessment to benchmark their use of digital technology and paper free records. 

The results will form a ‘digital maturity index’, which will be incorporated into the Care Quality Commission inspection regime from next year.

Inderjit Singh, NHS England's head of enterprise architecture, told the Expo today that the roadmaps are for CCGs to define and articulate where they want to go, in terms of achieving a paperless environment by 2020.

The new ‘digital maturity index’ will define where they are now. “The digital maturity index is about understanding where you are now; in terms of the electronic capabilities you have got in place.

“This isn’t just measuring what you have procured, but about outcomes and usage; as the fact that you have a system in place doesn’t mean that much,” he said.

NHS England has issued a series of statements and press releases ahead of the Expo, reiterating health secretary Jeremy Hunt's call for a 'paperless' NHS by 2020, the imperatives of the 'Five Year Forward View' to generate £22 billion of efficiency savings by this date, and the importance of technology to delivering the plan.

In one of these statements, Kelsey said: “The NHS in England must end the unnecessary reliance on paper in the treatment of patients. It’s key to making services safer, more effective and more efficient. 

“As well as saving precious resources, technology can dramatically reduce errors. Urgent action is a moral imperative where paper is the currency of clinical practice.” 

NHS England estimates that the current annual cost of paper storage of patient records is between £500,000 and £1 million for each trust.

In his speech tomorrow, Kelsey will also announce a review into the feasibility of installing free wi-fi in every NHS building and new apps stores for diabetes, obesity maternity and early years, smoking cessation and COPD.

“This month the NHS will begin piloting a new endorsement model, that will help patients and doctors, nurses and care staff to sift through the 97,000 health apps that are currently available on the EU market and identify the ones that are most effective in managing long term conditions and increasing wellbeing,” another NHS England statement says.

NHS England has already announced that all discharge summaries for acute or day care patients transferring from hospital to the care of their GP must be completed electronically by this October. 

 It is also stressing the use of the NHS Number to allow healthcare staff to match records to patients, wherever they appear in the care system. Another of the new initiatives announced to reduce reliance on paper is that patients, pieces of medical equipment and drugs will be identified through the use of barcode technology, to ensure the right patient, drug and dose is being administered.