The rollout of electronic health records is being accelerated in France, it was announced, as programme managers and suppliers on England’s equivalent programme await news of its future.

England’s £12.7 billion is set to be overhauled, after the Department of Health said it would slash spending on consultants for centralised programmes, create a “more plural system of IT suppliers”, and effect an “information revolution”. A major change in scope is rumoured to be planned.

No details have been given officially, and the Department of Health today declined to comment on the programme’s future. But an announcement is expected in the upcoming governmental Spending Review after the summer.

Germany’s electronic health record programme was scrapped in January, in the face of concerns over delays, rising costs and data security. But in the US president Barack Obama is pressing ahead with plans for a national electronic health record.

Meanwhile, the French government announced last month that a national electronic records programme, led by suppliers Atos Origin and La Poste, would produce the first version of the record by the end of the year. This was an “ambitious” speed of rollout, the French electronic health agency stated.

At the end of this month, software suppliers will receive a “development kit” containing sample code and testing tools, to help them produce and test their applications that will interface with the records. In November, there will be full compatibility testing.

In the accelerated rollout, the French government is attempting to introduce a basic version of the system, which will be developed upon while in use at hospitals. Other versions will be released over time with enhanced functionality.

The concept of a national electronic health record had been scrapped in France in 2008. But it was reintroduced last year in a bid to cut costs from the administration of state health insurance.

The record currently being created will allow patients to access and manage their records online, similar to some plans mooted by the new UK coalition government. But unlike the UK system, where patient consent is assumed, in France records are only created when patients explicitly give consent.

A government-commissioned review into the UK’s record scheme, which published its findings in June, found that the records were offering almost no benefit to patients or doctors. It has also been established that many patients do not understand the implications of the scheme, even after receiving an information pack.