Health care digital transformation must include nurses

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the digital transformation of health care will remain a pipe-dream unless nurses are involved more.

The results of a consultation led to the college warning that the NHS won’t be able to realise all the benefits digital technology can bring for patients and staff until it takes better advantage of the expertise and views of nurses, who represent the largest single staff group in the health service.

Ross Scrivener, RCN eHealth lead, said: “In the past few weeks leading up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we’ve heard a succession of health care leaders arguing that the best way to transform health care in the UK is to utilise the full benefits of digital technology. But our consultation shows that that aim will remain a pipe-dream unless managers, technology providers and IT staff take more account of the views of nurses.

“The responses to our survey reveal some depressingly mundane barriers to nurses’ full participation in digital transformation, from wifi that doesn’t work, to computers that take too long to log on. The single most important theme to emerge from the consultation is that involving nurses in the design and implementation of programmes and systems to improve patient care is not an optional add-on – it is absolutely vital.”

In response, Caron Swinscoe, NHS Digital’s senior clinical lead, said: “The people on the frontline need technology to work as effectively as possible whether they are in a hospital or caring for someone in their home. The only way to ensure this happens is to involve those staff, who do the work day by day, in the design, development and implementation of digital health technology. Every nurse and midwife has something to contribute to the debate.

“NHS Digital is committed to involving nurses and midwives in the work they do. We have nurses with backgrounds in all areas of care supporting our programmes, informing the way we do things and helping to build strong links with frontline staff. It’s the only way we can ensure digital health is relevant, effective and useful in the real world. NHS Digital backed the RCN’s ‘Every nurse an e-nurse’ campaign last year which is all about using technology to drive better ways of working. Nurses will always need to give hands-on-care, and embracing new technology means they have more time to do just that.”

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