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Nurses feel they are not receiving sufficient training in the use of IT systems, according to a new survey.

The Royal College of Nursing published the findings of the survey, carried out by Nursix. It also said that nurses feel ignored in NHS IT decision making.

The survey found that 87 per cent of nurses felt it was important they were consulted about IT plans, but only 12 per cent felt they had been adequately consulted. Although 38 per cent said they have had adequate information about current NHS IT developments, 61 per cent said they have not, including 26 per cent who have had none at all.

The lack of training for nurses has also emerged as a major concern. Ninety-five per cent of respondents thought nurse training was central to the success of the planned electronic patient health record, but in the last six months 69 per cent had not received any IT training at work. There has been no progress on this front compared with the results of RCN surveys of previous years.

Sharon Levy, informatics advisor at the RCN, said: "This is not just about teaching nurses to press buttons on a computer. Information and its use and management are central to nursing and delivering good patient care. We have got to give nurses the right training and support so that NHS and patients see the benefits that IT could bring to healthcare. If nurses continue to be ignored, a huge amount of money and effort could be wasted in yet another failed public sector IT programme."

Another feature to emerge is that nurses' attitudes towards the national NHS IT programmes are becoming more negative. More respondents (43 per cent) said they did not think they were a good use of resources than those who thought they were (40 per cent). In early 2004 there was a big majority (67 per cent against 11 per cent) in support of the programmes.

In addition, only 56 per cent thought that IT developments would improve clinical care, compared with 70 per cent in 2004.

RCN general secretary Dr Beverly Malone said: "In the current financial crisis in the NHS it is hardly surprising that nurses are expressing reservations about the large and expensive national NHS IT programmes. Nurses will be by far the largest group of health professionals using NHS IT systems, yet they are hardly being consulted or informed about developments.

"We know from experience that if front-line staff are not involved in change, it fails. This survey is the final wake up call for the government. They need to work much harder and, as a matter of urgency, ensure nurses are involved in the development and evaluation of IT programmes.

"Nurses are willing to work with the government on this, but we're not sure the government is willing to work with us."

In response to the RCN's statement, Barbara Stuttle, national clinical lead for nurses at NHS Connecting for Health, said: "There is no doubt that nurses are the glue of the NHS and are fundamental to the programme, ensuring IT benefits patients and supports professional practice.

"We are learning from the results of the survey and hope that through our work, not only with the RCN, but other nursing bodies too, we can improve the results for next year by being proactive in working with and engaging in the design and implementation of IT.

"However, we should not forget that the work of NHS Connecting for Health is taking place during a great period of change in the NHS. The IT programme is a 10 year programme, which is evolving the way forward gradually.

"To commence our proactive approach we have a visioning day planned initially with the RCN so we can address issues and concerns, and improve and strengthen our engagement with nurses in partnership with professional nursing organisations."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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