Wednesday, March 29, 2006

NHS Connecting for Health Nursing & Midwifery Conference 28th March 2006

The first Nursing and Midwifery conference organised by NHS Connecting for Health was held in London on the 28th March 2006. The conference was aimed at all nurses and midwives but seemed to attract a large number of nurse managers, civil servants and educationalists, rather than front line staff, with about 300 people attending. Perhaps this was appropriate as it was a general awareness raising event aimed at getting people on board people who could influence future developments and implementation.

The conference was opened by Barbara Stuttle (Director of Primary Care and Development at Thurrock Primary Care Trust) who took up her part time secondment as National Clinical Lead for Nursing with NHS Connecting for Health in April 2005. Barbara emphasised the importance of nurses as the ones who hold the NHS together and made some very general comments about the importance of Connecting for Health programmes for all practitioners.

Beki Ruban (Head of Nursing Development Programme, NHS Connecting for Health
) gave an overview of the various programmes contained within Connecting for Health including; the spine, care records, choose and book, N3, PACS, Contact and eprescribing. She emphasised the complexity of the organisation and the size of the challenge describing it as the biggest civil IT project – a frequently used phrase which seems to have been adopted from the title of Sean Brennan’s book. Beki concluded by urging everyone to get involved to tell the programme what they wanted and needed, trying to get everyone, but particularly clinicians, to have ownership of the changes and realise the potential benefits.

A keynote address entitled “Connecting for Health: Breakthrough or Barrier” was next on the agenda by Professor Christine Beasley (Chief Nursing Officer, England). She opened with some personal memories and related these to issues around demographic changes, changing patient expectations and the recent White Paper. She emphasised “Nursing Constants” suggesting Caring For + Caring About = Confidence. Discussing whether technology would prove a help or hindrance she mentioned usability and some of the “difficulties on the journey”, which were to be expected. She used several examples to suggest that IT, and particularly a national approach, can aid in informing practice, improving patient safety, catalysing research and supporting new roles. She closed by urging everyone to get involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of new systems and suggested that the RCN was helping by managing enrolling all its members onto the NHS Contact messaging and scheduling service. She also seemed to give an advert for her Balckberry! During the question and answer session she managed to avoid answering questions about “Caring” getting lost in patient care, liaison with social services and other agencies (e.g. Nursing Homes) and the confidentiality issues around the electronic transmission of patient records without their consent.

The next session was an enjoyable and humorous presentation by Carol Steltenkamp and Victoria Bradley from the University of Kentucky (UK), College of Medicine. They provided a snapshot of work they have undertaken to reduce adverse drug events due to organisational, technical and human factors, at a US medical centre (while including adverts for horse racing in Kentucky). They described the process of putting in Computerised Prescriber Order Entry and Clinical Decision Support systems and some of the lessons they had learnt. While accepting that the scale of the implementation in England is much more ambitious they did provide some useful insights into the pitfalls and benefits along the way.

After the lunch break which provided a good opportunity to catch up with friends old and new and visit the stands laid on by Connecting for Health, we reassembled for a presentation by Jonathon Ashbridge (President of the Nursing and Midwifery Council). He set out many of the systems and processes of the NMC relating to standards, particularly in relation to pre-registration education entry and qualifications and CPD. He emphasised the important of communication and continuity amongst all stakeholders and mentioned improved quality assurance processes to come.

Delegates were then invited to attend two of the five workshops on offer:
• Education, Training and Development (Felim McCarthy, Frontline Connect Delivery and Content Manager)
• How Nurses are Helping to Shape Clinical Information Systems (Helen Hood, Senior Project Manager, Do Once and Share programme and Cath Mercer, Project Manager Maternity of the Do Once and Share Action Team)
• How Benefits will be delivered to patients and Staff (David Lane, Head of Clinical Benefits Advisors)
• Using Knowledge Tools to Support Clinical Practice (Dee Hackett, Process and Design Lead and Cathy Gritzner, Programme Manager)
• Overcoming Implementation Hurdles – Question and Answer Session (Carol Steltenkamp and Victoria Bradley, University of Kentucky)

The first one I attended was on knowledge tools and was a description of the Evidence Based Conents Service which is working to validate care pathways and then incorporate them into the software being provided across England. There was lots of discussion of the governance process (and the forthcoming name change for which we were invited to make suggestions) but little on how this will advantage patients.

My second workshop was on Education Training and Development who looked at some of the barriers to change and work currently underway in both IT training (e.g. ECDL) and for the National Care Records Service and touched on the relationship with Higher and Further Education.

The conference was closed by Susan Osborne (NHS Connecting for Health, Clinical Lead for Nursing) which centred around the treatment of her cat “Mr Tigger” and his electronic record at the Vet, with some mention of the governance and engagement of nurses within Connecting for Health. She used some examples including Sister Mary a Robot at her own hospital and the use of barcodes on name badges to point the way forward to a safer service for patients.

Several speakers said that they didn’t know anything about technology, almost as a boast, and suggested didn’t need to know how it worked or understand the science behind the programmes, which this could potentially give out a very negative message to nurses in the audience, however if it succeeded in getting senior nurses and midwives informed about and involved in the forthcoming changes then it will have served it’s purpose.

Summaries of the keynote presentations are available from Connecting for Health

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