According to the King’s Fund’s 2019 position on digital healthcare: “Digital technologies are integral to many of the changes envisaged in the NHS long-term plan. Making a reality of these ambitions will require a stronger emphasis on engaging and upskilling the people who are expected to use digital technologies at all levels in the NHS, particularly clinicians”. (2)
The launch of The Digital Health Academy was announced earlier this year. The CPD online training platform aims to ‘actively engage’ over 50,000 UK healthcare professionals in its first year, and all 630,000 NHS healthcare staff by 2031.
Despite this, there is currently no mandatory digital health training for nurses and no provision, that I’m aware of, for time to be released so they can complete this training.
Practical support is vital. In my role at Ascom I work closely with clinicians to show them how the technology works practically, whether that’s from helping establish a virtual ward or introducing new systems that enable interoperability between medical devices.
Providing nurses with a voice
Earlier this year, chief nursing officer at NHS England, Ruth May, said that she wants to see a chief nursing information officer (CNIO) in every organisation in order to help drive the NHS digital agenda.
She said: “I was pleased to appoint the very first chief information officer. But I would like to see in every organisation, every organisation, a chief nursing information officer because I think that will give us the voice, the co-ordination and the network for us to make some bigger changes”.
May added: “I’m delighted to work with colleagues to build on the Topol Review to look at how we commission a comprehensive review of the workforce needed and the digital skills needed for the workforce of the future”.
Future generations of nurses will enter a digitally enabled NHS. One where patient records will be fully digitised and interoperability a reality, rather than an ambition.
We’re not quite there yet, but for that to happen the nurses of today need to have a voice. They need to be as engaged and educated as patients. They need to know when it comes to new technology and digitisation, not only what’s in it for their patients, but also what’s in it for them.
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1. ORCHA, 2021: https://orchahealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2107_ICS_Research_Report_2021_National_final.pdf
2. King’s Fund, 2019: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/positions/digital-health-care