The government is to spend £140m technology and leadership training for nurses and midwives in order to “improve care and beat bureaucracy”.
The prime minister and new health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the funding plans on Saturday, ahead of the start of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham. The money will be linked to good performance by trusts in the government’s new patient feedback drive.
The government said £100m would be offered to the NHS for nurses and midwives to spend on new technology intended to “free up time for patient care and help make essential patient details instantly available on the ward, at the bedside or in the community”.
Technology highlighted by David Cameron and Mr Hunt included digital pens and other handheld mobile devices intended to speed up access to patient and treatment information, while reducing time spent on form filling.
Nurses and midwives will decide “what kit is best for their own workplace”, the government said.
Under the plans, the government will loan the technology funding to the NHS but trusts will only be required to repay a percentage.
However, trusts and organisations that receive positive feedback from patients in the new “friends and family test” will not have to repay any of the loan.
The test, which comes into effect across England from April, will see trusts rated on whether patients would recommend a service to their friends or family, based on their treatment.
An additional £40m will also be made available for extra leadership training for the “next generation” of nursing and midwifery leaders, the government said.
Up to 1,000 nurses and midwives will get this training and support this year, rising to 10,000 over the next two years. This training will also be available to nurses and leaders working in the care sector, the announcement said.
Mr Hunt said: “Most nurses and midwives chose their profession because they wanted to spend time caring for patients, not filling out paperwork. New technology can make that happen.
“That’s better for nurses and patients too, who will get swifter information and more face-to-face time with NHS staff.”
Referring to a report encouraging the use of ward rounds from the royal colleges of nursing and physicians last week, Mr Hunt added: “The importance of these issues was laid bare by doctors’ and nursing leaders earlier this week. The government’s role is to listen to the NHS and support these leaders – that’s what we’re doing today.”
Meanwhile, Mr Cameron said: “Too often nurses have been met with a barrage of bureaucracy – the boxes have been ticked and the quotas have been met.
“My mission with the NHS is to change that. We need to focus relentlessly on improving the care people get, and we’re taking some big, practical steps to achieve that.”
In response, Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome any money if it genuinely reaches frontline midwives and which would enhance their skills, services and professional development and improve the quality of maternity care for mothers and babies.”
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter welcomed the funding for leadership training, which will be distributed through the NHS Leadership Academy.
He said: “The RCN is fully supportive of this initiative. From ward sisters and community matrons to directors of nursing, we know that effective leadership can make a big difference to patient care.
“However, there has been a lack of investment in leadership training in recent times and we therefore welcome this programme by the NHS Leadership Academy. We look forward to seeing further details and working with the academy to take this project forward.”