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Digital tech boost ‘cannot be a substitute’ for full NHS staffing

£2.1 billion investment in improved IT in England announced by government receives lukewarm reception from nurse leaders

£2.1 billion investment in improved IT in England receives lukewarm reception from nurse leaders

Leading nurses have cautiously welcomed a £2.1 billion cash injection that aims to make slow NHS internet and paper records a thing of the past – but warned it is no substitute for a fully staffed workforce.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans to invest in improved IT across acute, community and mental health services in England ahead of Wednesday’s autumn budget.

£2.1 billion investment in improved IT in England receives lukewarm reception from nurse leaders

Picture: iStock

Leading nurses have cautiously welcomed a £2.1 billion cash injection that aims to make slow NHS internet and paper records a thing of the past – but warned it is no substitute for a fully staffed workforce.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out plans to invest in improved IT across acute, community and mental health services in England ahead of Wednesday’s autumn budget.

The government says the funding will free up staff time with improved digital security, faster broadband and digital patient records that can be used across all settings by 2024-25.

IT investment must reach community nurses, says nursing chief

Crystal Oldman

But Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) chief executive Crystal Oldman said more detail was needed.

‘Community providers have made huge strides in recent years and patients have benefited as a result, but there is still much potential to build on systems in the community,’ she said.

‘Technology improvements cannot be a substitute for a properly staffed workforce of registered nurses with the appropriate training and experience.’

Nurses bemoan technology not fit for purpose

Slow and outdated technology in the health service has long been a source of frustration for nurses.

A 2019 QNI survey of 500 district nurse team leaders found that a third (179) said improved IT was one of the top three things that could make a difference to their work.

And a Nursing Standard survey of 2,260 nurses in February 2020 found that almost a third of respondents (31%) used five or more passwords to log in to different work systems, while almost one in six (16%) said they still used a fax machine.

‘Bizarre’ prioritising of IT over staff

British Association of Critical Care Nurses chair Nicki Credland said while she welcomed the new investment, the focus on IT rather than staffing was ‘bizarre’.

‘We’ve got beds we can’t staff, we haven’t got enough nurses, we don’t have enough doctors or GPs,’ she told Nursing Standard. ‘And we have got the army coming in because we haven’t got enough paramedics.’

A Treasury spokesperson said the autumn budget will set out how the government would invest in public services.


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