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Technology can back up big ideas and bold action

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Ros Moore on why we must harness technology effectively to achieve improvements in quality and efficiency

To paraphrase the words of prime minister Gordon Brown, exceptional times call for exceptional measures.
With the NHS moving from a period of unprecedented investment and growth to one of greater austerity, it will also need exceptional leadership. As far as I’m concerned, the leadership challenge for nursing and midwifery is clear: we must retain the focus on safety and quality systems that has developed since the launch of the NHS next stage review; we must maintain the momentum that has been built up around quality and consolidate the gains that have been made; and finally, as a profession, we must remain resolute and relentless in our pursuit of nursing excellence throughout the healthcare system. All this while squeezing maximum value from scarcer resources.

As a veteran of previous downturns in the NHS, I do not underestimate the severity of the challenge we face or the difficult times that probably lie ahead. However, with over a decade of capacity building and system reform under out belts, I think we start from a different point from before.

With that in mind, we should remember the lessons from history which time and time again proves the old adage that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Maybe the current economic downturn will provide the final push needed to usher in the long awaited transformations to the healthcare system that are required to meet the twin challenges of an ageing population and changing public expectations.

‘Nurse leaders must ensure that technology is not viewed as a cost or a necessary evil but as the engine of change, driving quality and productivity through innovation’

It’s great to see my fellow nurse leaders rising to the challenge and trying to mobilise the collective will and energy of the profession. For example, strategic health authority chief nurses, with support from the chief nursing officer in England, are already working on the Energising for Excellence initiative, which aims to provide frontline nurses with the tools to improve practice and assure quality.

Reassuringly, it will build on the tools and approaches that are already in use in the NHS and ensure learning is shared nationally and regionally to support further implementation. This will encourage a
pick and mix approach, aligning local needs and requirements with wider assurance and benchmarking.

The search for 10 high impact changes is another initiative coming from the SHA chief nurses in conjunction with the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. With strong backing from the chief nursing officer and carrying the endorsement of the main professional organisations, this initiative aims to mobilise nurses and midwives throughout the healthcare system to identify actions they have put in place to improve quality and reduce costs. Crucially these must have the potential to be adapted and developed for implementation across the NHS.

A web based ideas channel has been launched where nurses and midwives can nominate ideas, which will be evaluated by an expert panel before the best ones are selected for testing. Go to www.institute.nhs.uk/HIA for more information.

Harnessing the potential of technology will be vital to these and any other initiatives. Nurse leaders must ensure that technology is not viewed as a system cost or, worse, as a necessary evil but as the primary engine of change, driving quality, productivity and prevention through innovation and improvement.

That’s why I am involved in supporting the initiatives above and why NHS Connecting for Health has established and supports the NHS Clinical Leaders Network (CLN). The CLN is a pan-professional network for healthcare practitioners across the country. With around 1,000 members across all 10 SHAs, it is designed for clinicians who are passionate about service improvements and interested in innovation, as well as developing their network among their clinical peer group locally and nationally.

Up to 120 clinicians in each SHA are involved in monthly CLN action learning sets, tackling problems and planning action that will improve the quality of their care services. Membership for 2009-10 is full in many of the SHAs.

An associate members’ scheme has been set up for those who cannot wait for the next cohort. Associates have access to the CLN’s online networking community, as well as policy documents, information about innovation grant opportunities and papers/presentations from CLN speakers.

To read more about the CLN, visit www.cln.nhs.uk and to hear about some real life stories of some of the people involved, go to www.cln.nhs.uk/stories/members.htm.

In conclusion, I would like to send out a call to nurses everywhere. Don’t be afraid to generate and share ideas; collaborate as much as you can and create alliances within the NHS and outside; there is much to learn.
Times like this demand bold action and big ideas, so let’s ensure that technology is harnessed effectively to achieve the dramatic improvements in prevention, quality productivity and efficiency that we really need.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • We are in a state in nursing of having tools pushed on us that are not fit for purpose, where incorrect assumptions have been made about what we do, and that don't actually support the work we do but hinder it.

    Any innovative solutions which do become available are frequently rejected because they are not alligned with 'the national programme' so trusts wait and see.

    Technology or solutions that are homegrown are often stifled because of concerns around data quality, records management, or cost. And staff with good ideas on the ground - the ones actually using the product to help care for the patient have their ideas ignored or disregarded.

    The state of technology within the health service is in a poor state, not because of nurses shunning technology, but because of trusts being artificially limited in what they can deploy.

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