The government has pledged £40 million for new technology to speed up the time it takes NHS staff to log into computer systems.
A further £4.5 million will also be shared between local authorities to develop digital adult social care programmes in a bid to bridge the gap between the NHS and social care.
Health secretary Matt Hancock claims the investment will save thousands of hours in staff login time every day, ease the administrative burden and make the working lives of NHS staff easier, ultimately freeing up time for increased one-to-one patient care.
The burden of over-complicated login systems is well known across the health service. Currently NHS staff have to login to multiple systems when treating a patient, with each programme requiring separate login details.
Some staff are required to log in to as many as 15 different systems each shift.
Citing Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s success with single sign-on technology, which reduce staff login times from one minute 45 seconds to just 10 seconds, Hancock said he wanted to “get the basics right” to ease the burden on staff.
“Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve,” he said.
“It is frankly ridiculous how much time our doctors and nurses waste logging on to multiple systems. As I visit hospitals and GP practices around the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times staff complain about this.
“It’s no good in the 21st century having 20th century technology at work. This investment is committed to driving forward the most basic frontline technology upgrades, so treatment can be delivered more effectively and we can keep pace with the growing demand on the NHS.”
The three areas of focus for the login programme:
- Working with IT system suppliers to standardise logins and provide multi-factor logins, like fingerprint access, rather than password led log ins
- Ensure trusts update their processes to give staff appropriate access permissions for the systems they need to treat patients
- Integrating local and national systems so staff can access the full range of clinical and workforce systems to support their needs
NHSX chief Matthew Gould added: “’If you work in the NHS, the tech should not be getting in the way of your ability to do your job. Tech should be something you rarely think about because it just works.
“Today’s announcements mean we can start to tackle one of the biggest gripes staff have with their tech. It will allow staff across the NHS to spend more time with their patients and less time fighting their computers.”
Ben Moody, techUK’s associate director for health, welcomed the announcement.
“In producing our manifesto for the health secretary a year ago we spoke to clinicians working in different parts of the NHS. Slow login times came out as the number one frustration that staff have with technology,” he told Digital Health.
“Healthcare is ultimately about human relationships and interactions. This type of technology can hugely improve the precious time that clinicians and patients have together; improving job satisfaction for clinicians and health outcomes for patients.”
The social care pledge
The £4.5m investment in adult social care will support local, digital initiatives to help people to live independently for as long as possible and improve information sharing, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Examples of some programmes that could receive funding include, artificial intelligence with assistive technology, such as sensors; creating shared care records which combine medical and social care information; and integrating care home information into hospital IT systems.
Hancock also renewed his pledge from December to establish a new “Digital Aspirant” programme, which would provide funding over several years to aid digital transformation projects to deliver safe, high-quality care.
The programme will aim to raise the bar across the NHS making sure organisations have a core set of capabilities in place, DHSC said.
It is not yet known how much funding will be committed to the programme.
Further information on how the Care Quality Commission (CQC) would begin inspecting digital capabilities was also revealed.
Hancock has committed to designing a model of excellence to inform every provider on what they must do to be outstanding in technology in the 2020s.
This will be assessed as part of the CQC inspection regime, with trusts expected to meet minimum tech standards.
No timeframe was given on when the model of excellence would be published.