Sir David Nicholson’s resignation: a look at his NHS contributions

The public rejoicing by Julie Bailey and her ‘Cure the NHS’ supporters at the news this week of Sir David Nicholson’s planned resignation got me thinking of Mark Antony’s famous speech in Shakespeare’s play:

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”

In other words, people are more likely to be remembered for their mistakes than for anything good they achieved.

As the hapless boss of Mid Staffs at the height of its failings and therefore in an untenable position, Sir David was clearly on a hiding to nothing. And despite working in the NHS for 35 years, in all likelihood the beleaguered health chief’s successes will go largely unsung.

Yet there’s no denying that the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ – his mandate to the NHS to find £20bn in efficiency savings by 2015 through working smarter – has undoubtedly spawned some welcome advances in healthcare IT.

One that particularly caught my eye recently is an ingenious system that spares clinicians as much as 45 minutes each day to devote to patients. Sounds too good to be true, I know, but for once it is and here’s why…

Even in the most digitally advanced hospitals, it’s not unusual to hear doctors and nurses complaining about tardy access to patient data – which is not surprising since most of it is stored in siloes and departmental systems scattered around the trust.

Things become even more frustrating for clinicians whenever they move from one area of the hospital to another, and often from one device to another – say from a desktop PC to a tablet or smartphone. Plus, they have to remember endless passwords. All of which eats up precious time better spent caring for patients.

So, wouldn’t it be great if they could avoid all that by using technology that simplified access to multiple applications and patient records, and was even capable of following them across multiple devices?

Well, that’s precisely what’s now happening at Luton and Dunstable NHS Foundation Trust Hospital thanks to an ingenious clinical desktop transformation system that provides users with one clinical desktop which layers over all existing applications.

Comprising ‘follow-me’ technology that works seamlessly across desktop PCs, laptops and tablet devices, it creates a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) that enables sessions to continue uninterrupted as clinicians move from their office to a patient’s bedside, to the outpatients clinic and even beyond.

“The system has revolutionised how we look at results,” says Mark England, the trust’s director of IM&T. “Instead of logging onto different systems, we log in once and look at all of the results in one go, saving us time and making us more efficient. Any additional time saved by being able to manage patients more efficiently means we’ll have more time to ensure we’re discharging our patients safely.”

The system is undoubtedly having a significant impact on the lives of clinicians. Forty-five minutes saved each a day can translate to three additional patient visits. Over the course of a year, that means one clinician could potentially treat around 800 more patients. Multiply that across the hospital’s entire clinical staff and that number grows exponentially again!

Solutions that add work and take away time from patient care will always be unpopular with clinical staff; whereas those – like Clinical Desktop – that give back time will always be welcomed by busy clinicians.

Therefore, rather than berating Sir David for his mistakes of the past, I prefer to think that his ‘Challenge’ has helped catalyse some pretty smart working which may otherwise have remained untapped!

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