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NHS in need of an IT Reform: 13.5 million hours wasted yearly by doctors due to outdated computers and staring at loading screens

UKNHS IT system is in need of reform.

The entire world including the healthcare systems globally has moved on to using state-of-the-art electronic record systems. This is especially essential in modern times as patients have access to the internet and want to be able to view their records, instructions, and plans of treatment. However, a recent survey done by a team of the British Medical Association (BMA) revealed that doctors in the NHS waste 13.5 million hours every year rebooting dodgy computers and staring at the loading screens. This tremendous waste of time costs the NHS approximately £1 billion. In several emergencies, there is a constant need for updates through the electronic system about a patient’s history and access to their records, so quick life-saving decisions can be made. However, the lack of good NHS IT systems forces physicians to delay treatments due to inefficient IT systems throughout several trusts.

The major reason for such outdated IT systems in hundreds of GP practices and hospitals is down to the serious lack of funding from the government to improve the IT infrastructure. To combat the 13.5 million hours wasted by doctors either by restarting computers or staring at loading screens, Victoria Atkins the health secretary vowed a £3.4 billion investment to improve the IT infrastructure of the NHS. Whether this plan will come to fruition, or it is just usual empty promises made by the government to earn public favour remains to be seen. This investment to improve productivity is essential as in several trusts doctors have to share a single computer before treating a patient and this inadvertently wastes several man-hours that could have been more productive. In many trusts and GP surgeries, medics have to log into several different IT systems to access patient records. Astonishingly, some doctors reveal that Wi-Fi access is so poor that doctors have had to use unsecured public Wi-Fi and, in some instances, even use personal phone data to access records such as CT images.

The use of IT systems in healthcare is essential as healthcare providers rely on important data such as red flag safety alerts, while prescribing patients important medications. For example, in cases where there are duplicates or similar drugs existent on a patient prescription, alerts pop up to warn the physicians to cross-check prescriptions prior to dispensing. However, due to slow and laggy computers, these risks are heightened due to these alert features' unable to warn physicians in time, ultimately putting the patients at risk. These facts were reiterated by Dr Victoria Tzortziou Brown, the vice-chair of the Royal College of GPs. She stated, ‘All too often, our members are using out-of-date systems that often crash’.

From an IT perspective, an NHS spokesperson has said that there is a need for further improvement in the IT systems of the NHS and several upgrades are underway. Statistics reveal that three-quarters of adults rely on the use of the NHS app to access health advice, order prescriptions, and book appointments. This digitalisation shift has made a significant impact on freeing up time for administrative staff to focus on important hospital operations under staffing pressures. Therefore, the spokesperson implied that the £3.4 billion investment is essential for the improvement of the NHS IT infrastructure.

Overall, there has been a massive shift towards digitalisation in the NHS in the last few years in several hospitals and GPs throughout the country. This has impacted the quality and safety of healthcare provided to the British Public. However, the fact cannot be undermined that the current quality of the NHS IT systems is in dire need of improvement rapidly. This will evade safety risks and prevent delays in patients seeking healthcare for their problems. Furthermore, it would also raise an already depleted and exhausted morale of the healthcare staff, who will be able to complete their tasks more efficiently. Lastly, like several NHS sectors, the IT sector improvement in the NHS cannot be ignored as it forms an integral part of daily healthcare provision. Therefore, the health secretary must deliver the promise made to the NHS and provide trusts and primary care throughout the country to improve the all-important IT systems.

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