Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has pledged to invest £40m into NHS computer systems, creating more time for workers to care for patients


The government has emphasised the need to improve outdated computer systems as part of the digitisation of the NHS (Credit: National Cancer Institute)

The UK government has pledged to slash the time it takes staff to log in to NHS computer systems with a £40m ($52.5m) investment.

This will free up thousands of working hours each day for doctors and nurses across the country, allowing them to focus on frontline patient care.

The “logins project” will introduce multi-factor logins such as fingerprint access — as opposed to multiple passwords — and make sure NHS staff have permission to access the systems they need to treat patients.

It will also attempt to integrate local and national computer systems so healthcare workers can access the full range of clinical systems.

A further £4.5m ($5.9m) will be given to local authorities to digitise adult social care services, and help support the most vulnerable members of society.

This includes investment in AI for assistive technologies, and allowing patient information held by care homes to be more smoothly integrated into the IT systems of NHS hospitals.

Department of health and social care (DHSC) secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is frankly ridiculous how much time our doctors and nurses waste logging on to multiple systems.

“As I visit hospitals and GP practices around the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times staff complain about this.

“It’s no good in the 21st century having 20th-century technology at work.

“This investment is committed to driving forward the most basic frontline technology upgrades, so treatment can be delivered more effectively and we can keep pace with the growing demand on the NHS.”


Why NHS staff login times need to be reduced

The DHSC said when it comes to technology, slow login times are one of the main frustrations facing NHS staff.

Currently, they have to log in to multiple programmes — often while tending to a patient — and each of these require separate details.

Some staff need to log in to as many as 15 systems while seeing a patient, according to DHSC findings.

nhs computer systems
Matt Hancock, UK secretary of state for health and social care (Credit: UK Parliament)

As well as reducing the amount of time they can spend on one-to-one patient care in hospitals and GP surgeries, the current system also creates a cyber security risk, with many NHS workers using the same password for multiple systems.

Matt Hancock said the DHSC must “get the basics right” to ease the administrative burden on staff.

He added: “Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve.”


A similar NHS computer systems project in the UK

The new investment will support similar initiatives seen at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool.

That project was successful in using technology to lessen the administrative burden on NHS workers, according to the DHSC.

Implementing single sign-in technology — allowing a user access to multiple applications with one set of credentials — Alder Hey reduced the time spent joining computer systems from one minute 45 seconds to 10 seconds.

This saved more than 130 hours of staff time, allowing workers to focus more fully on patient care.

The DHSC is hoping the £40m investment will have a similar impact across the wider UK, as it pushes for all healthcare providers to be “outstanding” on technology in the 2020s.