Expert advice

The COVID-19 crisis has shown us why embracing tech is so important for the NHS

The health service has already committed to develop take up, but more financial investment is needed

The health service has already committed to develop take up, but more financial investment is needed

Community nurses show an overwhelming desire to embrace IT systems and tools Picture: iStock

In early June, the UK parliament signalled the end of its short flirtation with the current century as it closed down online voting and returned to debating in person in the House.

This was despite the concerns of many MPs, some of whom were disadvantaged during the pandemic due to disrupted travel from more distant constituencies or are in high risk groups for COVID-19 infection.

What better symbol of an out of touch, London-centric Westminster government than its insistence that parliament revert to a 19 th century model of democracy, with some MPs ignoring social distancing as they shuffled through

The health service has already committed to develop take up, but more financial investment is needed

Community nurses show ‘an overwhelming desire to embrace IT systems and tools’ Picture: iStock

In early June, the UK parliament signalled the end of its short flirtation with the current century as it closed down online voting and returned to debating in person in the ‘House’.

This was despite the concerns of many MPs, some of whom were disadvantaged during the pandemic due to disrupted travel from more distant constituencies or are in high risk groups for COVID-19 infection.

What better symbol of an out of touch, London-centric Westminster government than its insistence that parliament revert to a 19th century model of democracy, with some MPs ignoring social distancing as they shuffled through the voting lobbies. This is presenteeism, underpinned by exceptionalism.

View our COVID-19 resource centre

The benefits of technology during lockdown

COVID-19 has wrought tremendous death and damage, but it has also revealed potential benefits in the accelerated use of technology to underpin remote communications and engagement.

Many individuals, and organisations, are realising the benefits of efficiency savings, reduced environmental impact and improved individual health and well-being.

This is why the UK parliament’s vote to abandon a technology-based system is symbolically so counter-productive.

Embracing IT tools to drive a ‘digital future’

There has been a strong impetus in the NHS recently to make greater use of technology. The Topol Review, published in February 2019, emphasised the benefits of harnessing technology and a ‘digital future’ for the NHS.

It highlighted the need for all employers to provide training and support for staff to ‘develop and enhance digital literacy’.

A year earlier, a report from the Queens Nursing Institute said community nurses showed ‘an overwhelming desire to embrace IT systems and tools’. It also highlighted barriers to this happening, such as a survey showing that 29% of community nurses are still working largely with paper-based systems.

Unlike the UK parliament, there is a policy commitment and willingness in the NHS to exploit technology for the benefit of all.

The impact of COVID-19 has accelerated this process. What risks undermining further take up of technology in the NHS will be funding constraints, not ideology.



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