A London mental health trust has set up an innovative system for allowing nursing students to have access to patient records and other electronic information.

Pre-registration education nurse education co-ordinator, Roger James, at South West London and St George’s NHS Mental Health Trust said it was the first among London mental health trusts to organise IT access for nursing students and possibly one of the first in the country.

Because nursing students are attached to their universities and not NHS employees, there can be barriers to allowing them access to systems while they are on clinical placements. However, the trust has devised a protocol to resolve the issues.

One of the main barriers was the fact that nursing students had no line manager in the organisation, so it was agreed that Mr James should be designated as their line manager. A disclaimer form was devised for the students to sign confirming that they had read the trust’s IT policies and rules and agree to abide by them.

The system was introduced in January and students who are drawn from Kingston University and King’s College, London, are now signing their forms and being introduced to the system.

”This is part of a long line of initiatives we have taken to make the students feel part of the organisation,” said Mr James. It is hoped that many of the students who gain clinical experience with the trust will opt to join the nursing team when they qualify.

The students can access patient records but any notes they add have to signed off by a qualified nurses, just as they do in paper formats. Apart from helping students feel part of the team, their IT access also enables them to pick up e-mail and do online research for their studies while they are on their clinical placements.

”They are being trained in the way that healthcare workers will be expected to work in the future,” said Mr James.