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NHS hands out 3G slabs and phones to roving nurses

Should help community care workers cut down on desk-time

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The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is piloting mobile devices for its community care nurses and therapists to enable them to access files, capture data and update back office systems remotely.

The launch of the 14-day pilot, beginning on 7 February 2012, will see about 60 staff equipped with smartphones and tablets using Vodafone's 3G network. They will have access to policy and other documents held on the trust's database and, using an in-house app based on NDL software, will be able to update information about their visits in real time.

The app will help the trust comply with the Department of Health's requirement to provide the Community Information Data Set (CIDS) - which includes information on patients' demographics, care and referrals - from April, without its community nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and others having to return to an office.

"Provided the pilot goes okay, and based on the feedback from the 60-odd staff who are using it, the plan is to move straight into our training sessions with 900 staff so that we are ready for implementation from Monday 2 April," Keri Storey, the trust's assistant director and social care, told Guardian Government Computing.

Storey said she envisaged that equipping and training staff will happen quickly, but it will take a little more time before staff become confident and comfortable in using the new technology.

"We have had really poor information capture about what out community teams do in the past.

"Our teams go out and they will write records in people's homes, or on bits of paper that get stored in files. It has just not been the area where we have developed good information systems.

"The development from the Department of Health of the CIDS, whilst a challenge, is a massive step forward in having some good common information about when we are supporting people at home and the interventions we have made," Story said.

The trust's policy and guidance documents will also be available via the devices, giving staff real-time information to aid their clinical judgements.

"The staff who have tested the devices and will be testing further in the pilot, find it a very simple way of working," she said. "It's just some simple drop down menus and a device which they can take into patients homes and not feel it is intruding into their clinical relationship."

Northern Devon also intends that the devices will have eventually have access to satellite navigation systems to help staff locate patients' homes more easily.

Storey said that in some of the rural areas covered by the trust 3G connectivity is patchy, but the app has been developed to enable staff to work offline and then automatically update back office systems when connectivity returns.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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