NHS Digital chief nurse calls on nurses and midwives to continue to take the lead on digital revolution

NHS Digital’s acting chief nurse, Caron Swinscoe, writes about how small technological and information sharing advances have the chance to make a real difference to nurses and midwives on the frontline and the patients they care for:

In the UK there are more than 698,000 nurse, midwives and nursing associates on the NMC register, from over 164 countries, caring for patients and citizens in many different settings.

You would be hard pressed to find any one of them that isn’t prepared to go above and beyond the call of duty to help their patients.  

But often that enthusiasm for the job we love isn’t so easily extended towards the technology we have to use. Technology that could make our working lives easier and ultimately lead to even better care for our patients, but sometimes makes things harder.      

We all use technology at home in our daily lives, whether it is being able to catch up with our favourite TV series on the go, to voice-activated smart speakers that can control our homes’ heating and lighting – yet the revolution in our houses has often been at a faster pace than on our health service..

I’ve spent 37 years working in the NHS, 18 of which were spent at the patient bedside and really welcome any developments that allow for more direct care and support of citizens. I am absolutely certain that the road to better care and experience is paved with technology.

As I take up the role of interim Chief Nurse for NHS Digital, I am proud to be part of an organisation that is helping to provide technology that is useful and usable, that provides the  means to allow nurses and midwives to have the information they need, where they need it, to be able to support our patients and citizens.

Having access to patient information and being able to share that information easily and effectively between practitioners offers huge benefits for patients and staff.

The Child Protection Information Sharing system (CP-IS) is a great example of how information sharing across the NHS and social care can have a profound impact on young people’s lives.

The system is designed to act as a warning system for vulnerable and looked after children – triggering an alert on a child’s health record when they appear at an unscheduled healthcare setting, such as A&E or an urgent treatment centre.

This piecing together of information that can be shared from NHS organisations and social care, nationally across England, is vital to making early interventions that help protect children from harm. CP-IS has helped safeguarding teams provide safe and appropriate care for some of our most vulnerable children.

This sort of knowledge and information is invaluable for nurses and midwives to help them make the right decisions for their patients.

Some of the changes that have been implemented across the wider NHS have also shown that simple steps to improve digitisation in hospitals can make a world of difference.

Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust has used E-Sepsis, a clinical decision support tool, to screen patients for the blood-infection in A&E and on its wards. This has led to more timely antibiotic prescribing and improved administration of antibiotics, which of course, in turn leads to better care and outcomes for patients.

Through the Global Digital Exemplar programme trusts around the country can follow in Liverpool’s footsteps and implement sepsis screening practices that could transform the care of patients from Penrith to Penzance.

These changes and many others like them, have the potential to make a really positive impact on people’s lives. Nurses and midwives are in a great position to be able to help.

System developers and IT teams need nurses and midwives to help develop and deliver services that are reliable, workable and useful, designed with the professional and the patients in mind. Without the nurse and midwife voice we risk implementing systems that are difficult to use in practice and detract nurses and midwives from the jobs they do.