The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced £3.4 billion of new investment in NHS digitisation in the Spring Budget.

The NHS in England, which had been facing real-term cuts due to inflation, will also receive a £2.5 billion day-to-day funding boost for 2024/25.

The digital investment will come as part of a £3.4 billion in capital investment over the forecast period “to help unlock £35 billion in productivity savings over the next Parliament by harnessing new technology like AI and cutting admin workloads”, as part of new Public Sector Productivity Plan with the Treasury to deliver better public services.

According to the government The NHS will receive £3.4 billion as part of this over the forecast period – the three years to 2028/29 – doubling investment in digital transformation.

Commenting on the Spring Budget statement, Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said: “The government is right to acknowledge that outdated IT and technology is one of the barriers to NHS productivity. The announcement of £3.4 billion capital investment over three years is a welcome first step to increasing efficiency.”

As Digital Health exclusively reported in November 2023 national funds for frontline digitisation were slashed earlier this year as NHS England was told to claw back £1 billion pounds of costs of strike action.

The new investment will, it is claimed, “reduce the 13 million hours lost by doctors every year because of old IT” and help “deliver test results faster for 130,000 patients a year thanks to AI-fitted MRI scanners that help doctors read results more quickly and accurately”.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday Hunt said the investment would unlock £35 billion in productivity savings across the NHS over the course of the next parliament.

“As a result of this funding, all hospitals will use electronic patient records, making the NHS the largest digitally integrated healthcare system in the world,” said Hunt.

In his Budget response Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer, however, reminded Hunt that as Secretary of State for Health ten years ago, he’d promised to make the NHS paperless by 2018, a target that had come and gone unmet.

More recently Sajid Javid promised to ensure all NHS hospital trusts have electronic patient records by the end of 2025.  The target was declared unachievable by the Government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority in July 2023.

Hunt said that under a new agreement the Treasury will prioritise digital projects, with a “ground-breaking” agreement with the NHS for digitisation to make services “more efficient”.

As a result of the agreement the Treasury will prioritise proposals that “deliver annual savings within five years equivalent to the total cost of the investment”.