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Hand-held computers could help nurses to meet Darzi quality targets

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Hand-held computers could help nurses to achievie the improvements in quality recommended in the NHS Next Stage Review, according to a nurse IT expert.

Barbara Stuttle, clinical nurse lead for NHS Connecting for Health, was speaking at the launch of a ‘mobile clinical assistant’ that enables nurses to take photographs of patients’ wounds, read barcodes containing drugs data and record patient notes.

‘Applications like this can maximise the time spent with patients, which is particularly important in long-term conditions and end-of-life care, which were two of the main work streams identified by Lord Darzi,’ said Ms Stuttle. Both areas are clinical care pathways in the Next Stage Review.

The new device is designed to survive being dropped from waist height and is easily washable to minimise infection. It is one of a series of technological developments that could revolutionise nursing, said Ms Stuttle, who headed a team of 100 clinicians involved in the design of the product.

Other innovations include combined laptops and mobile phones, know as ‘smart phones’, for district nurses, which also incorporate safety alarms, Ms Stuttle said.

As Nursing Times reported last week, Powys Local (teaching) Health Board has already given such devices to its 140 district nurses and is rolling this out to 40 health visitors as well.

A pilot of the mobile clinical assistant at East Cheshire NHS Trust showed the number of missed dosages was cut by 27% after its introduction. There was also a 227% reduction in drugs needing to be recycled and a 672% reduction in drugs needing to be destroyed.

Patients reported greater satisfaction because they could see drugs being ordered at their bedside. They also felt reassured that they were being treated in a timely and professional manner.

A similar study at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust showed that mobile clinical assistants reduced the time spent on blood orders from 40 hours to 33 hours per week.

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