A Midlands hospital trust has pioneered a new online training system for nurses which it believes could free up thousands of hours of time for patient care as well as saving money on agency staff.
Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham has been using the system, which allows 24 hours access to online skills assessment and training, for around 12 months. A second trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, began adopting the system in April and a third is also understood to be interested.
The virtual interactive teaching and learning system – known as VITAL4Care – is based on similar technology used in universities. It currently covers 14 areas of core nursing care including falls, diabetes, tissue viability and medicines management.
More specialised sections for midwives, neonatal nurses and children’s nurses are in the process of being added.
Vanessa Lockyer-Stevens, principal educator at the trust’s faculty of nursing and midwifery, said she estimated the system would free up 65,000 hours per year for “hands on patient care”.
This is based on the trust’s 2,500 adult nurses spending two hours per year using the VITAL system to assess their skills and training needs instead of attending 28 hours per year of face to face training sessions. The trust predicts this will save £833,000 per year in costs on bank and agency staff normally needed to cover for face to face training.
However, Ms Lockyer-Stevens told Nursing Times the system was “designed to complement and reduce some of the burden” of face to face learning rather than replace it altogether. She said findings from a full evaluation of the project, expected in the spring, would look at what the trust’s ratio of online to face to face training might be in future.
Ms Lockyer-Stevens said initial findings from the project showed that most nursing staff were choosing to access the system at home rather than at work.
She said: “This could be for a number of reasons, among them the need to recognise that not all learners are nine to five. Some learners prefer to work in surroundings favourable to getting the best from the learning experience and that may mean quiet time at home.”
She added that the trust’s chief nurse had guaranteed staff who used the system in their own time would get time off work in lieu.