UK nurses are generally positive about NHS IT developments, but over three quarters have received little or no information about them, a survey conducted by Nursix for the Royal College of Nursing reveals.

Alison Kitson, executive director nursing, at the RCN, said: "Clearly nurses can see huge improvements in patient care with the introduction of electronic systems and their direct involvement is crucial. We are pleased to see the government has acknowledged the importance of clinical staff involvement with the appointment of [deputy chief medical officer] Aidan Halligan. 

“So far, the majority of our members have not been consulted, which in a context where contracts have already been awarded to IT providers in England, is problematic.  The RCN wants to see the best use made of nurses’ understanding of clinical processes so that the new systems succeed in delivering direct benefits to health care.”

The issues explored in the Nursix research closely parallel some of those in a Medix survey of doctors published earlier this year.  Over 2000 nurses, midwives and health visitors from all sectors of the health service in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland responded to the survey.

A worrying 26% had heard nothing about NHS IT developments until they saw the survey – almost twice the percentage of doctors who recorded the same response. 27% said they had received no information but knew something about the developments and 22% said the information given to them had been inadequate. 

A further 22% felt they had received “reasonably adequate information” and just 2% thought they were fully informed. A similar pattern was seen in responses to a question on integrated electronic health care records.

However, the survey report notes: “Despite many having inadequate information about proposed developments, over half (51%) of the respondents believe that integrated electronic healthcare records will significantly improve clinical care.

“Although a quarter were unsure how these records would impact on their working lives, 59% felt they would lead to improvements. And even more (72%) believe they are an important priority for the NHS at this time.”

A question about consultation on the integrated electronic healthcare records revealed that only 8% felt consultation had been adequate.  63% of respondents said they had not been consulted at all, though a similar percentage (68%) thought consultation with individual practicing clinicians was very important.

Nursing respondents were much more certain than their medical colleagues about the wisdom of committing billions of pounds to IT developments.  Over two thirds (67%) said the work was a good use of NHS resources compared to 31% of doctors who responded positively to the same question about England’s National Programme for IT.

The RCN is encouraging members to share the survey’s findings with their trust’s NHS chief information officers and contribute to the development of local consultation, training and other strategies