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'We want to empower staff to engage more with technology'

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Making the best use of digital technology is key for getting nurses and midwives to play a central role in transforming NHS services, explains Beverley Bryant

In autumn 2012, the prime minister announced dedicated capital investment called the Nursing Technology Fund to support nurses, midwives and health visitors to make better use of digital technology in all care settings.

The fund was launched in December 2013 and invited NHS organisations to bid for money to buy technology that would support staff in delivering safer, more efficient and more effective care. We want to empower our dedicated care professionals to engage with technology in a way that is both meaningful and helpful to them, which is why we are delighted there was such a positive response to the call for applications.

The first round of applications saw 74 trusts awarded funding totalling almost £30m, which has enabled them to put in place some really exciting and innovative initiatives.

These include voice recognition technology for a paediatric intensive care unit; electronic observation systems that allow nurses and clinicians to record clinical data at the bedside on electronic devices in real time; and the deployment of digital pens to community and district nurses and midwives, which allows for captured data to be integrated into back-office patient systems.

The focus of the second round of applications shifted from technical solutions to technology-enabled services. Eligibility was also expanded and 62 organisations, including local authorities and voluntary, community and social enterprises, as well as NHS trusts and foundation trusts, have been awarded funding totalling almost £35m, to be spent across 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Successful applicants include Marie Curie Cancer Care, which was awarded £1m for its connected nursing project to enable mobile access to digital care records, digital capture of clinical data at the point of care, and resource-scheduling software; Milton Keynes Hospital Foundation Trust, which was granted £646,000 for its project to enable the monitoring of vital signs and early warning scores at the bedside in real-time; and Devon Partnership Trust, which was awarded £204,000 for video consultations for nursing staff to equip patients and develop proper therapeutic environments for remote consultations in a community mental healthcare setting.

Nurses and midwives have a central role to play in transforming NHS services; making best use of digital solutions is a key component of this. We need better, more integrated and preventative person-centred care. We need to support people in their communities and homes. Reducing the need for hospital care and technology is a key enabler to make this happen.

The fund has empowered nurses, midwives and health visitors to offer care in ways that were not possible a decade ago, and it will continue to support improved working practices with the potential to transform patient care.

Beverley Bryant is director for strategic systems and technology, NHS England.

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