Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust has introduced a new IT system to support its Hospital at Night teams at Nottingham City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre.

The system, called Nervecentre, enables Hospital at Night co-ordinators access to information about patients and the care they need.

It also enables them to see what clinical staff are on duty and their workload, so they can allocate the most suitable and available person to carry out that care.

Previously, staff relied on a bleep system, and might bleep people who were already snowed under or did not have the skills to help.

Debbie Guy, lead nurse for what Nottingham calls Hospital @ Night, said coordinators were previously desk bound with more than 1,000 calls per site, per week to process.

“Often they could have up to ten bleeps waiting, with no visibility of priority. So if one of the bleeps related to a patient whose condition was critical, the implications could potentially be life threatening.”

In some instances the delay could reach up to an hour between a nurse requesting help for a patient and the message reaching a doctor able to respond.

Nervecentre Software was set up in 2010 to provide real-time information on staff productivity and to improve efficiency. Its introduction at Nottingham was supported by the ‘Better for You’ whole hospital change programme.

It was introduced to the H@N team because of the constraints on staffing at night imposed by the European Working Time Directive. But the intention is to roll it out to staff working in the daytime as well.

The software enables ward staff to type a request onto the ward computer, using a national guideline tool called SBAR. The request then appears on a H@N co-ordinator’s screen, enabling them to call appropriate support.

The co-ordinators are using portable tablet computers, freeing them from being tied to a desk managing bleeps, and allowing them to spend more time on the ward or supporting other staff.

The Nervecentre software can be used on Cisco WiFi phones, and BlackBerry, Nokia and Android smartphones.

Nervecentre managing director Paul Volkaerts said: “Nottingham came to us because they wanted to improve patient safety. We have helped them to achieve that.

“Nervecentre has been used to release valuable clinical time back to patient care. It is currently being used to manage more than 300 activities a night, and has managed more than 33,000 activities since it was deployed [in September] last year. We are now in the process of rolling this out to other parts of the trust.”