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Nurses express doubts about patient e-records

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Nurses have strong reservations about the benefits of electronic patient records, a survey for the Royal College of Nursing has found.

Although the survey, carried out by Medix, found that two thirds of nurses welcome the introduction of electronic patient records (EPRs), fewer than one in two felt they would improve patient safety. Almost a third of those surveyed were uncertain as to whether EPRs would be more secure than the existing paper based system.

The survey also found that two thirds of respondents have yet to be consulted about EPRs, while just one in 10 had been consulted "quite a lot" or "to a great deal".

Commenting on the findings, RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: "This survey shows that progress on IT has been made in some areas and it is positive to see that, despite some adverse coverage in the media, nurses on the whole remain supportive of the concept of an electronic record.

"However, on the important issues of consultation and engagement, nurses are saying little has changed in the past four years and that is disappointing considering where we are with the programme."

The survey also revealed a lack of IT training to support the introduction of EPRs. Some 55 per cent of respondents said they had received no IT training during work in the last six months, yet a mere 20 per cent believed they did not need extra training to be able to use the EPR system. Only 30 per cent of those surveyed have sole access to a computer at work, while 16 per cent of nurses said they were forced to share a computer with more than 20 people.

Carter added: "This survey shows IT training programmes for health service staff and the number of computers available for them to use will have to be expanded on a significant scale in the next two to three years if electronic records are going to support and not hinder clinical care.

"We cannot have a situation where nursing staff are waiting in line with 20 or more people for time on a computer to carry out essential documentation. Equally, we cannot have a system that is dependent on so few computers to facilitate care."

The questionnaire surveyed 2,600 RCN members between late May and late June 2007.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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