NHS IT risks failure, warn angry angels

Tech upgrade in trouble without support of nurses
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Tech upgrade in trouble without support of nurses

The £12.4bn NHS IT upgrade could end in failure if nurses are not better informed and consulted about the giant project.

The largest ever survey of nurses' attitudes to IT, by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), found only 12 per cent feel they have been adequately consulted on the IT plans.

A quarter (26 per cent) said they had received no information about NHS IT developments and 61 per cent said they had not been given "adequate" information.

In the survey of 4,451 nurses from a range of specialities and grades, 95 per cent said nurse training was central to the success of the planned electronic patient health record. But in the last six months 69 per cent of nurses have had no IT training.

RCN general secretary Dr Beverly Malone said nurses will be by far the largest group of health professionals using NHS IT systems - but are hardly being consulted or informed about developments.

She said in a statement: "We know from experience that if front-line staff are not involved in change, it fails."

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Malone said the survey was a "final wake up call" for the government. Whitehall needs to work harder to ensure nurses are involved in the development and evaluation of IT programmes, she said.

Nurses are now more split over whether the massive IT programme is a good use of NHS money. And Sharon Levy, the RCN's informatics advisor, warned that if nurses continue to be ignored, a huge amount of money and effort could be wasted "in yet another failed public sector IT programme".

Earlier this year a National Audit Office report warned that more needed to be done to win the hearts and minds of health service staff, and explain to them how the plans will affect their jobs.

In response to the RCN survey, Barbara Stuttle, national clinical lead for nurses at NHS Connecting for Health, said nurses are "the glue" of the NHS - and fundamental to the programme.

And she said the agency will be more proactive in working with nurses on the design and implementation of IT. But added that the 10-year programme is "evolving" the way forward gradually.

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