By Tony Collins
My thanks to the IM&T and medical teams at Manchester-based Trafford General Hospital who made my visit last week so useful.
A special thanks to IM&T manager Steve Parsons and his assistants Laura Slatcher and Karen Ambrose for their patient and clear explanations. I am also grateful to Peter Large, Director of Planning, Performance & Service Improvement; Simon Musgrave, Medical Director; Julie Treadgold, Matron, and their teams.
It was enlightening to see how IT at Trafford General Hospital is changing the working lives of doctors and nurses – and making a difference for patients.
The technology and business media, when reporting on IT in the NHS, often mention the National Programme for IT – NPfIT – and the tens of millions of patients who have GP-held electronic records, or who have received packs of marketing material on the Summary Care Records scheme. Thus the media coverage of NHS IT is often of the abstract and hazy world of contract negotiations and huge sums spent with major IT companies.
My visit to Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust was a reminder of how much some IM&T managers are achieving on small budgets, outside of central, politically-driven IT-led programmes.
At Trafford I saw what buy-in among doctors and nurses means in practice, such as the timely completion of electronic forms that make it easy to see, on large touch screens located in a room close to each ward, when a patient’s next medical check is due, when a VTE (Venous thromboembolism) check is overdue, when an A&E patient has been waiting too long to be seen or treated, and the reasons for the breaches.
So much essential information is available from the ward touch screens – such as graphs showing whether, say, medication is having the desired effect, over hours or days, on a patient’s neutrophil blood cells; and it’s easy to see whether a patient has yet to have an x-ray reviewed by a specialist. Indeed a doctor with the relevant smartcard authorisation can call up their patients’ x-rays on the ward’s touch-screen.
Behind all these screens is the patient’s electronic record that includes archived, scanned notes, diagrams and charts. If the local GP has authorised it – and so far about half in Trafford’s catchment area have – A&E department hospital doctors will soon be able to access the GP-held patient record also.
Trafford’s hospital-wide technology is designed to be integrated with departmental systems by the in-house team. It is delivered by suppliers whose contracts are firmly under the control of the local Trust. It’s technology outside of the NPfIT – and it works.
So while officials in Whitehall have spent years trying to make an overly ambitious NPfIT deliver, some trusts, Trafford among them, have been giving measurable and visible technological support to clinicians who have welcomed the changes because they have seen improvements in the safety monitoring and timely treatment of their patients.
We plan to report further on the improvements at Trafford and at other hospitals.