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Delays to PM's £100m nursing programme 'politically difficult'


A member of the group overseeing Downing Street’s drive to supply nurses with IT technology has expressed concern that tight timescales were leading to the exclusion of nurses from the project’s design, it has been revealed.

David Cameron announced the launch of the Nursing Technology Fund in October last year, promising a £100m investment in technology to help nurses “spend more time at the bedside”.

A Department of Health timetable document says the two-year project is due to conclude in April 2015 - one month before the general election. However, it has emerged that the project is currently two months behind schedule.

Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal has obtained minutes of the only minuted meeting of the steering group overseeing the project, using the Freedom of Information Act.

At the session in June, one member, whose identity was redacted, “expressed concern about the tight timetable, especially when it came to securing nursing input into the application and decision-making processes”.

“She asked whether we could negotiate a month’s delay with Jane [Cummings, NHS England’s chief nursing officer] and Viv [Bennett, the Department of Health’s director of nursing],” the minutes stated.

The paper names the two nurses as joint senior responsible officers for the project. However, the DH this week said its director general for strategy and finance was senior responsible officer.

The minutes recorded that another member of the project team, whose identity was also redacted, “pointed out that any slippage could be politically difficult, given the timing of the announcement”.

Another document from the meeting said the call for applications was due to be launched in mid-July and close by 2 September.

The DH said this week that responsibility for the project had passed to NHS England, which “will announce the opening of the application process in the coming weeks”. NHS England confirmed applications were not yet open.

Last October Mr Cameron was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “What we’re announcing is £100m extra into the NHS specifically to help our brilliant nurses with new technology so they can spend even more time at the bedside with their patients.”

He said the project showed how the Conservatives were “the only party” committed to increasing the NHS’s budget.

When asked how the project was funded, a DH spokesman said its administration was NHS England’s responsibility, while an NHS England spokesman said the financing of the project was a matter for the DH.

The DH has subsequently confirmed that the £100m is part of its departmental expenditure limit and is not extra money from the Treasury.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Why would they want a nurses view on nursing issues?

    Everyone and the dog "knows" about "nursing" !

    Why not ask the for the Daily Fails input !

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  • michael stone

    Excluding nurses from the design of a system to be used by nurses, seems fairly typical: it is, after all, probably the simplest way to ensure a screwed-up outcome.

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  • Another fine mess in the making by the Laurel and Hardy government. How can IT for nursing be managed in this way when nursing is an integrated part of hospital and medical services.

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  • I see that Cameron's pants are alight....again.

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  • I have no idea why Government think that by introducing technology to Nursing that it will save time? Do they not know that it's technology that creates the extra work?

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  • yet more spin from that cuddly chubby faced young scamp Dave.
    So in reality the government aren't investing any more money it's coming out of existing budgets and will no doubt affect other services which possibly have their budgets cut because of it. Shame it wont come in on time so cheeky chubby faced Dave won't be able to spout his lies to the populace. Shame the people who will be using it won't be able to have input into how it should work and what it should include in it. Then again when it doesn't work which it probably wont who will they blame?

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  • George Kuchanny

    I agree with all comments. In a previous incarnation I was a Principal Engineer and before then Software Team Leader, mainly in aerospace.

    Back in the day, when computers first began to appear in homes when I first discovered the delights of programming at chipset level I knocked out a game or three for consoles as well. The start of my involvement with computers.

    From the low end to the high end of systems in other words. Oddly, the low end was driving the high end design at that time. People became aware that the 'user interface' as we called it then did not need a degree in Maths Stats and Computing to master. The kids in the family could run fractal programs with a couple of clicks of whacko thing called a mouse. Their crappy little machines at home were easier to do stuff on that the behemoths at work.

    End user involvement in large system designs was born. It remains a critically important involvement to this day.

    I personally flew out to the good old US of A in search of the mighty dollar for our economy as a secondary consideration with the primary one of ensuring that flight line supervisors and Aerospace Engineers got their say in design. I will always remember being diverted from JFK NY to land at a military airfield because of poor landing conditions.

    The stewardess on board handled the situation very well when we landed with an almighty thump and all the cabin oxy masks descended to the consternation of the nervous among us. She simply said ‘for those of you who have not noticed that we have just landed we can confirm that we have indeed done so safely’. A delight!

    Onward from there to Sikorsky Helicopter Stratford, Connecticut where many a 12 hour day was spent in ‘requirements capture’ from the big to the trivial e.g. Colour had to be Color otherwise it would upset big cheese Richard Sewersky and you did not want to upset Rich if at all possible.

    I then flew out to the rigs in the North Sea from Dyce in Aberdeen to get input from Helicopter pilots on the rigs.

    An environment that simply has to be seen to be believed, with flares going off just as the chopper was landing, the entire rig a thunder of drilling, massive chunks of oily machine parts all over the place and the whole place buffeted by 10-12 foot mountains of water crashing into the rigs with fearsome energy. Horizontal spume and rain adding to the general excitement.

    Data entry was more of a challenge on the flight line than some might imagine it would be back in a nice office with pot plants. It had to be designed. Mil spec keyboards with big keys in case paraffin jockey still had gloves on, the whole works. Later to be replaced by automatic data capture on landing. Otherwise the system might as well be lobbed overboard. It would not be entirely useful, another piece of crap getting in the way of the job.

    All that work to capture end user requirements, not to mention expense, personal discomfort and estrangement from nearest and dearest. A waste of time? No. It was critically important endeavour toward the success and adoption of the system when it was rolled out.

    Now on to answer the pivotal question put by Anonymous | 8-Sep-2013 4:28 pm

    When it doesn't work which it probably won’t who will they blame?

    If end users (and back end IT crew – let’s not forget that upsetting big cheese Rich is not good) do not get their day on the Dias to put their view, well gee whillikers and shucks it ‘aint going to be them for sure, he said tipping his hat and spitting sideways.

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  • michael stone

    George Kuchanny | 9-Sep-2013 3:53 am

    You are pointing out what I normally describe as 'perspective issues' - in this case, that the people who are one end of the process are very different from the people at the other end.

    My City Libraries were a classic case a few years ago, when to replace the situation of there being 10 computers but only 2 with CD-writers, DVD-writers were fitted to all 10 pcs. They heglected to install any disc-writing sotware however, and then 6 weeks later when somebody isntalled the software, nobody seemed to have bothered to consider that on these library computers you couldn't get at programms from the start menu: you had to click on desktop icons, and they hadn't put one linking to the program.

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  • Quite so Mike, imagine what the effect of such simple mindedness is on a huge expensive roll out. Helicopters in the drink because 'flutter' on a blade has not been spotted? The same for availability of up to date med records and globally useful patient data in systems, people die.

    Why has Mr Blogs gone all pale and sweaty after that last med was given? Aha! patient bi-polar so we can say med x y and z have an unusual effect. Nurse needs to know what the effect is exactly. When? How fast? Has junior doc dropped a clanger here? Need we tie into a BNF style database for lookup? Response time before info is useless? How easy should the user interface be to get to it? 3 clicks max or 100?

    Asking a bureaucrat to specify what why and when is needed in such safety critical systems to a program coder is foolish; especially when the bureaucrat is only interested in time to roll out and cost.

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