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Technology is the key to giving nurses more time with patients

Jane Cummings, England’s Chief Nursing Officer explains the vital role of the £100million Nursing Technology Fund

Technology is such a major part of our lives now that it would be safe to say that it has gone beyond the merely functional to becoming part of who we are.

We sometimes need to remind ourselves of its purpose. When we look at the development of the earliest tools and machines it is very simple – to allow us to do things more efficiently.

Technology in the context of the health service it is an interesting mix. On one hand, there is perhaps no other profession where the emotion and compassion that only a human being can give, is so important.  At the same time, technological advances have allowed us to do things that would have been unthinkable 60 years ago and opened up new possibilities for the way healthcare professionals work and deliver care.

Today, NHS England has invited NHS organisations around the country to bid for part of the £100m Nursing Technology Fund. This is a real opportunity to expand on the many examples where technology is making a real difference in the health service. It is our role at NHS England to ensure the £100m is well spent and gets maximum value for staff, their patients and the tax payer.

That is why we are very clear about the purpose of the fund – to help nurses, midwives and care staff who provide direct patient care to do a better, safer job using innovative technology which in turn improves each patient’s experience.

It is with this in mind that we are asking NHS organisations to formulate their ideas for how the funding can be put to the best possible use. Expensive technology that sits on a shelf is a waste of money. This new funding is about using very practical ways to provide a real benefit for staff in their daily roles.

There are great examples where technology is working in this way in the health service and making a real difference – the digi pen for example which can capture written information which can then be directly transferred to an IT system. This can save time that would have been spent typing up written notes. The midwifery team at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust have been using digital pens since 2010 and have seen significant benefits including freeing up more time to care, efficient data capture and removing the risk of lost notes.

One of the other key technologies the Nursing Technology Fund is focussed on is mobile technology such as notebooks or tablets. For the community healthcare worker, this helps with the accuracy of data and cuts down time travelling to and from the office to use IT systems, valuable time that can be spent with patients.

Another focus for the fund is technology that provides staff with vital information at the point of care which can help staff to provide safer care. Again this is using the tools at our disposal to do things that simply weren’t possible when the NHS was formed.

What has changed since 1948 are the demands on the NHS, which are greater than ever. We have an ageing population with people living longer and with multiple long-term conditions. We are acutely aware of this and the radical changes that need to be made so we can provide the best possible care for patients now and in the future. We are also clear that technology needs to be central to the different and innovative way of working that must be key to these changes.

Far from being afraid of new technology, we must learn to embrace and use it, particularly in front line nursing and midwifery care where it can improve communication, help staff do their jobs better, more safely and efficiently and consequently create a better experience for patients.

Jane Cummings

Professor Jane Cummings is the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Executive Director at NHS England.

Before progressing into general management, Jane specialised in Emergency Care. She has held a wide variety of clinical and managerial roles including Director of Commissioning, Director of Nursing and Deputy Chief Executive.

In February 2004, she became the National Lead for emergency care agreeing and implementing the 98% operational standard. She has also worked as the nursing advisor for emergency care. In January 2005, she was appointed as the National Implementation Director for ‘Choice’ and ‘Choose and Book’.

Jane moved to NHS North West in November 2007 where she held executive responsibility for the professional leadership of nursing, quality, performance as well as QIPP, commissioning and for a time Deputy Chief Executive Officer. In October 2011, she was appointed to the role of Chief Nurse for the North of England SHA Cluster.

She was appointed as Chief Nursing Officer for England in March 2012 and started full time in June 2012. Jane is the professional lead for all nurses and midwives in England (with the exception of public health) and published the ‘6Cs’ and ‘Compassion in Practice’ in December 2012, followed by publishing the ‘Leading Change, Adding Value’ framework in May 2016.

Jane has executive oversight of maternity, patient experience, learning disability and, in January 2016, became executive lead for Patient and Public Participation.

She was awarded Doctorates by Edge Hill University and by Bucks New University, and she is a visiting professor at Kingston University and St George’s University, London.

She is also Director and trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support and a clinical Ambassador for the Over the Wall Children’s Charity where she volunteers as a nurse providing care for children affected by serious illnesses.

Follow Jane on Twitter: @JaneMCummings.

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