NHS 'struggling' to adapt to digital tech, says Spectralink

By Danny Palmer
21 Jan 2014 View Comments
Tablet device in hospital

Budget limitations and spending cuts are stifling innovation in the NHS and preventing it from taking advantage of the potential benefits offered by digital technology.

That's according to Simon Watson, director at mobility management and workplace solutions provider Spectralink, who makes the comments as the NHS attempts to move towards being a paperless organisation by 2018 in an effort to improve efficiency and cut costs.

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"Whilst there are pockets of innovative practice up and down the country, the NHS as a whole is struggling to make the most of the mobile and digital technologies available," he told Computing.

"There are a whole host of reasons for this. Fear of change, budgetary limitations, unique requirements and technological challenges are some of the foremost."

Late last year, a Freedom of Information request by Spectralink revealed that a lack of mobile technology is hampering the transition to a paperless NHS.

And Watson believes that pressure on budgets means that despite having under four years to meet the government's goal of going paperless in the next four years, staff aren't entirely focused on moving towards new ways of working.

Evidence from the FOI request revealed nearly two-thirds of medical professionals still rely on old-style documents, and pen and paper.

"Aggressive cuts, the like of which the NHS has seen, doesn't only limit spend but also constrains ambition for change. When you're asked to squeeze every margin you don't often have a chance to lift your head and re-draw the lines," he said.

That, according to Watson, means that while staff on the front lines might understand the benefits of adapting to new digital solutions, those who control the purse strings are more concerned about immediate impacts to finances over building towards a digital future.

"Whilst caregivers can clearly see the need for improvement they aren't always in a position to make or influence buying decisions. And senior management in every organisation can be guilty of looking at the cost before the value," he said

"With so many decision makers and so much public accountability, organisations like the NHS shy away from the kind of large-scale change required to deliver a truly mobile digital service - and this is what is needed if it is ever to go truly paperless."

However, Watson believes that there is the capability for the NHS to go paperless and efforts such as funding schemes can help push the NHS towards a paperless future.

"The right devices and technology exists, and opportunities like the £100 million NHS Nursing Technology can help NHS organisations transform the working lives of front line staff," he concluded.

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