£40 million government investment takes aim at NHS staff login times

Identified as one of the “main technology frustrations” facing NHS staff, the fund intends improve service design burdens on staff by improving outdated technology, integrating local and national systems and providing multi-factor logins.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced a £40 million investment to tackle lengthy NHS staff login times, a move the government say will free up thousands of staffing hours each day.

Currently, NHS staff must log in to multiple computer programmes in order to treat people – in some circumstances, this can be as many as 15 separate logins for a single patient. With each system requiring a different set of user details and passwords, login times have been identified as “one of the main technology frustrations facing NHS staff”.

Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, where a successful single sign-in system was adopted. Image courtesy of Sue Adair

“Tech should be something you rarely think about”

The £40 million government fund will go towards what has been dubbed the “logins project”. DHSC has identified three main aims to better service design: multi-factor logins, giving staff appropriate access and permissions and integrating local and national systems.

“If you work in the NHS, the tech should not be getting in the way of your ability to do your job,” says Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the organisation tasked with delivering the health secretary’s Tech Vision plan. “Tech should be something you rarely think about because it just works.”

This will, it is hoped, provide a service that is both more streamlined and more secure. With current systems, staff are required to remember multiple different passwords, or else risk cybersecurity issues like those that led to the 2017 Wannacry ransomware attack. In lieu of multiple passwords, fingerprint access could be implemented, for example.

It is hoped the investment will facilitate the roll-out of practices like those adopted by Liverpool’s Alder Hay Hospital, which implemented single sign-in technology with huge success. According to a government statement, the improved system reduced time spent logging in to computers from one minute 45 seconds, to just 10 seconds. With a total 5,000 logins from professionals a day, this saved more than 130 hours.

Hours wasted logging on doctors, nurses and paramedics could be cut “by thousands”. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

“Less time fighting their computers”

On top of this, an additional £4.5 million is being promised to help digitise the NHS’ social care offering for local authorities.

Initiatives supported by this fund are likely to include artificial intelligence with assistive technology, creating shared medical and social care records and IT systems that better allow for care homes and hospitals to integrate information, should a patient be admitted to hospital.

The funds are part of an organisation-wide user-focused digital push for the NHS. Last year, lead product owner at NHS Digital, Owain Davies, revealed the NHS had doubled its online traffic in two years, by overhauling services to create an accessible experience for both patient and staff member.

Naturally, it is hoped better performing systems will not only provide smoother service outcomes, but also free up more time for necessary patient-to-staff contact. Gould says: “It will allow staff across the NHS to spend more time with their patients and less time fighting their computers.”

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