Based on a telephone poll Connecting for Health has claimed that staff who master basic IT skills under the NHS European Computer Driving License (ECDL) training scheme are helping the service save time and money.

Connecting for Health, the DH agency behind the NHS IT programme, says that in a recent phone poll NHS staff who had completed basic computer training reported that they are using their new skills to cut down on admin and free up more time for patient care.

The results mirror a recent British Computer Society survey which found 96% of NHS employees who had taken the ECDL qualification expressed satisfaction with the organisation of the course and the testing criteria. Some 80% of respondents rated the qualification as very worthwhile.

In the CfH telephone poll students were asked to estimate how much time they had saved as a result of their new skills. Staff who had previously described themselves as basic IT users estimated they were saving an average of 24 minutes a day, while very basic users said they were saving an average of 38 minutes throughout their working day. Nurses are reported to be the group who estimated that training was helping them save the most time.

Nurses also reported the biggest gains in the extent to which they became more positive about the systems they were using – with those feeling positive about new IT systems grew from 30% to 74% as a result of the training.

Sharon Levy, informatics lead at the Royal College of Nursing, commented: "The RCN believes that in 5 years time nurses will reach for e-tools (on-line reference, mouse, light pen etc) as readily as they reach for the biro, reference book and telephone now.

"For such a vision to become a reality, nurses need to have access to the right tools and to appropriate training and support. Basic IT Skills (ECDL) will get nurses off the starting block. The RCN is confident that nurses will prove they can run with the new skills and make a genuine and profound difference to their patients, their practice and their organisations."

Richard Jeavons, service implementation director with NHS CfH said the results were encouraging: "They show that with the right support, NHS staff at all levels are hugely responsive to the challenge of increasing their IT skills in readiness for the new technologies on their way through the National Programme for IT."

Launched in March 2003 the NHS ECDL online programme is designed to prepare NHS staff to be able to use new IT systems by providing them with basic IT skills.

The NHS Basic IT Skills Service offers basic IT learning materials and testing to NHS employees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has over 120,000 registered learners and over 350 learning and test centres. More details on the Basic IT Skills (ECDL) Programme are available at