The ambition for digitally-enabled care to go mainstream across the NHS was set in the NHS Long Term Plan published in January 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid increase in the pace of digital transformation in the NHS. The NHS has seen how technology and data helps to provide safe and compassionate care to patients and to communicate with each other. This is likely to be sustained and the need for nurses with digital expertise and the ability to lead change is increasing exponentially.
In 2020, the first national Chief Nursing Information Officer for England was appointed to lead nursing and midwifery strategy in safe and effective care of their patients through use of technology. The White Paper (February 2021) demonstrated renewed commitment to ensure more effective data sharing across the health and care system and digital transformation of care pathways.
The matron’s role in technology enabled care
The matron’s responsibility is to identify areas of care that could be improved and data that might be required to enhance patient care. Matrons should support the development and implementation of technologically enabled care pathways and services, and the uptake of new digital innovations.
As nurse leaders, matrons are well positioned to influence service design and lead implementation through their knowledge of workflows and decision-making capabilities.
Matrons should ensure that new and existing staff are digitally literate and are fully supported to innovate, contribute to service design and the use of technology. Technology should be embedded in all aspects of nursing including recruitment, induction and education and training to enhance delivery of health and care services.
Digitally enabling nursing and midwifery
The Chief Nursing Information Officer for England has defined eight principles of what good digital transformation looks like for nursing and midwifery.
- Use technology to support nurses and midwives’ vital role in joining up care.
- Empower frontline staff through adoption of the principles of the CNO’s collective leadership programme.
- Professionalise nursing and midwifery informatics.
- Reduce the documentation burden on nurses and midwives.
- Release time to care.
- Improve safety and reduce avoidable harm.
- Strengthen evidence base for nursing and midwifery using big data to target care and support decision making about nursing and midwifery interventions.
- Empower people to actively participate and contribute to their care.
Technology solutions for the NHS in response to COVID-19
- Remote working using Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams provides secure instant messaging, direct audio and video calls between NHS colleagues and has virtual meeting capabilities. It can support remote and mobile working between NHS colleagues. How Microsoft Teams can support your clinical practice during the pandemic documents some case studies and benefits of the adoption of MS Teams and NHS Mail roll out across different clinical settings. 1.2 million NHS staff have access to MS 365 IT deal – saving the NHS £300 million. NHS Digital have now transitioned over 2 million accounts.
- The use of online and video consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic – delivering the best care to patients: Shift in general practice to delivering a ‘total triage’ model of care enabled by online, video and telephone consultations.
- Video conferencing technology in primary and secondary care: Rapid deployment and effective implementation of video consultations across primary and secondary care, ensuring many more people can receive safe and effective care without having to travel to their GP practice, hospital or clinic. 99% of GP practices are now enabled to offer video consultations and 77% of trusts, enabling health professionals to provide care and advice to patients at home.
- Health and care videos available to NHS clinicians free of charge: Trusted, clinically assured patient videos to help improve the experience of patients and clinicians.
- NHS 111 online coronavirus services: A brilliant example of the NHS harnessing the power of technology during the epidemic, to develop and deliver essential online services supporting the public and the health and care system. 2.2 million NHS 111 online COVID-19 assessments have been completed by a new 24-hour service, enabling more than 13 million SMS messages to be sent to support those shielding.
- Supporting care with remote monitoring: As the UK enters the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many NHS organisations are considering how they can deliver more care to people at home.
- How data is supporting the COVID-19 response: Information is critical to the response to COVID-19. Key pieces of data extracted from health and care settings, combined with information provided by patients themselves, will be used in new ways to care for people and help the NHS and social care to better understand and respond to the virus.
- 500,000 NHS staff benefit from telecoms deal: A series of easily accessible offers to help NHS staff, care homes and care providers upgrade existing connectivity during COVID-19 response.
- Information sharing across primary care: Introduction of GP Connect to enable sharing of patient records across primary care practices, including NHS111 being able to book direct appointments for patients.
Information governance is often viewed as a concern by NHS staff. Many systems have already been given approval and the responsibility of the matrons is to work with their local information governance teams on any new system that may require additional support. Below is the latest guidance to support you:
- Use and share information with confidence. Guidance highlighting key points to consider when sharing information to support care.
- COVID-19 IG advice. To help health and care staff adapt and provides advice on managing and sharing information appropriately to support care during the pandemic.
- Control of patient information (COPI) notices Legislation to require NHS Digital to share confidential patient information with organisations entitled to process this under COPI for COVID-19 purposes.
Resources available for patients and the public
There is a wealth of digital products to support patients and their carers digitally, most of which are commissioned locally. Please see below for some examples of nationally available services.
- The NHS App provides a simple and secure way for people to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet. Further information and guidance on the NHS App can be found on the NHS Digital page.
- The Health at home campaign provides guidance on accessing a range of health and care services from home or on the move using your smartphone, computer or tablet. There have been over 2 million YouTube views of the ‘Health at home’ campaign and over 1,000 downloads of the guidance.
- Digital isolation notes help people with symptoms of COVID-19, to provide evidence to their employer of being advised to self isolate due to coronavirus. The isolation note is sent electronically preventing the need for people to visit or contact their GP.
Additional case studies and resources
- The power of data in a pandemic – blog from Ming Tang, Matthew Gould (Chief Executive, NHSX), Dr. Indra Joshi (Director of AI, NHSX)
- Mixed-reality headsets in hospitals help protect staff and reduce need for PPE – article from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
- Being present in new ways: Nurses, technology and COVID-19 – blog from Dr David Barrett, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Hull
- Remote monitoring of healthcare in the North East – case study from NHSX
- The Greater Manchester Care Record – from Health Innovation Manchester
- Digital playbooks supporting remote care and digital outpatient pathways in ophthalmology, dermatology, respiratory, cardiology and MSK
- NHS X programme ‘What good looks like’ aims to empower frontline NHS leaders to do all they can do to promote digital good practice across health and care. It is a model for digital maturity to help accelerate digital transformation
- The Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) Blueprints are step-by-step good practice guides helping trusts deliver digital capabilities technology at pace and cost effectively to improve services for patients and staff
- Digital Literacy is a resource that supports capabilities that fit someone for living, learning, working, participating and thriving in a digital society, including self-assessment.
Career and professional development opportunities
- The NHS Digital Academy is a virtual organisation set up to develop a new generation of excellent digital leaders who can drive the information and technology transformation of the NHS.
- The Digital Health.London Digital Pioneer Fellowship supports change makers, employed by NHS organisations in London and the South East, to design and lead transformation projects underpinned by digital innovation.
- Clinical entrepreneur training programme For both clinical and non-clinical healthcare professionals with an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.
- The Digital Nurse Network is an online community supporting nursing teams in the development of a digital ready workforce that is sustainable for the future.
- The Shuri Network is the first NHS and care network of women of colour in digital health. Members as allies encourage colleagues to participate in digital innovation and create change.
- Florence Nightingale Foundation provides opportunities for nurses and midwives to apply for fully funded digital leaders’ fellowships.
- The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) Digital Leadership Academy is available to those influencing and leading change.
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Inc. (HIMSS) allows exploration of key insights, education, career development and events to healthcare providers ensuring the right information is available at the right time.
- TOPOL Digital Fellowships provides health professionals with time, support and training to lead digital health transformations and innovations in their organisations.
- Minerva Now aimed at women in middle or senior positions working in a digital health and care environment to understand their unique abilities and how they can be used to improve leadership skills.