Laura Steward

More than £9billion of taxpayers’ cash wasted on the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), these are the headlines that have been dominating the press recently. Sure there was some successful deliverables but the money spent, if spent correctly, could have gone a long way to funding technology that would really help the frontline or even provide more staff at the coal face to care for patients.

NHS England is going some way to rectify the mistakes that were made under the previous government – for instances, there is a far greater opportunity for a whole array of technology and suppliers to support healthcare organisations. Perhaps most importantly there are now different funds that address the needs of key healthcare professionals, and this time round, that most notably includes nurses.

Funds for ‘best of breed’ IT are gradually being introduced under the coalition government. This drip feed approach of  smaller amounts alongside tying it to specific initiatives i.e. ‘Safer Wards, Safer Hospitals’, and through an application process, centralised funding on technology in healthcare appears to be continuing in earnest with the potential to make significant changes in creating a more coordinated and paperless NHS.

However, the pot of money that has been designated to NHS nurses, is taking a while to appear and for some reason when it is finally launched it will be issued on the basis of ‘a loan’. I am referring to the Nurses’ Tech Fund. I recently re-read the original Department of Health press release, dated 8th October 2012 and the Prime Minister’s comment in the article: “Too often nurses have been met with a barrage of bureaucracy – the boxes have been ticked and the quotas have been met.”

However, reading in more detail, I was left feeling aghast at the stipulations being put on nurses. The release basically says ‘if you do a good job and get good reports in the friends and family test your organisation won’t have to give back all the funding (for essential tools which previously have not been provided to help you do your job)’.

I do find it (on behalf of nurses) a little patronising and an affront, particularly when there are no caveats with the ‘Safer Hospitals Safer Wards’ Technology Fund, where applicants have not been kept waiting a year for the application process to open. Nurses, who make up a huge majority of the NHS workforce, are desperately under resourced, overwhelmed with paperwork and have exceptionally limited technology in place to support them. So why is this condition being applied to them?

This is the first real opportunity for technology to really become an essential tool for nurses in healthcare delivery and the fund has the ability for ‘administration’ to become a meaningful activity rather than something taking them away from treating their patients.

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Technology will go a long way to easing the administration burden and the stress. Good ‘friends and family test’ scores will emerge, not because nurses are caring, but because they will have at last the tools to better equip them to do their vocation, to ‘digitise their box ticking’ and ‘release time to care’!

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