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The Government could solve the NHS staffing crisis – there are lots of people who would love to help

With the party conference season in full swing staffing levels are back on the agenda with discussions to remove the cap on salary increases to aid recruitment and retention.

The NHS needs another 10% more nurses and doctors. With the increasing health needs of the aging population it might need even more. While recruitment is difficult in the UK and a disaster in Europe other ways to make the work nurses and doctors do easier need to be considered.

A quarter of the time that doctors and nurses work is spent with writing things down. If patients would have access to their own records they could do much of this work. And this is not a pipe dream. More and more software solutions exist already who do just this. Here are just a few examples:

If I need to go to hospital for an operation Ultramed’s Preop Suite would allow me to tell my team about my previous conditions. The team from Truro has created an app that allows me to write down information about my medication, my allergies or other parts of information into an app that runs on my PC or tablet. This means that the team that does my cataract surgery or helps me with my hernia is fully briefed by the time I come in for the surgery. And they can prepare for things that are specific to my health care needs.

If I need to stay in hospital I am a bit worried. I would like my doctors and nurses to have the time to explain things to me. And to watch out for any complications that might arise. Unfortunately there is an awful lot of documentation. Much of it is repetitive and there are just too many forms for them to fill. Fortunately my local colleagues from Elidir Health have built a really easy documentation system for our nurses. Elidir Health is a Wales Start-Up Awards 2017 Finalist and was part of the DigitalDozend Accelerator program in 2016. Unlike others they have measured the time that it takes to complete nursing records with their CHAI app compared with hand written notes: nurses spent on average a fifth less time on paper work. That is time that I hope they can spend with me if I am poorly.

After I go home from hospital I might need a bit of support. If I live on my own then this is a worry for my family. Will I be ok? Will I be confused and accidentally leave the house at night? Will I be able to do all my routines? The clever team from HOWZ  has built a system that allows my friends and family to communicate whether they have seen me, whether I need help. Additionally HOWZ can be connected to sensors in the house that check whether I am switching the cattle and the toaster on at the usual time or accidentally leave the front door open. HOWZ would tell those that care about me if things are not as usual.

In order to keep me well at home, I might also need to take some medication. It is easy to forget what to take when. My father always had a nurse who came to remind him. Now Aparito might be able to help me. Aparito is a company founded by Elin Haf Davies. Elin started off as a paediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street. After taking a break to row first across the Atlantic and then the Indian Ocean she founded Aparito. Aparito collects patient feedback via a smart phone app and is able to integrate this data with measurements from fit-bit type devices. Aparito can also send this data to my doctor. This will allow my doctor to keep an eye on my safety. This is especially important if I am on new and complicated medications.

After a few weeks I will probably have a follow-up appointment at the hospital to check whether everything has gone well. I will spend an hour finding a car park (or buss connection) My doctor will then talk to me, check my medication and write a clinic letter. I know that there is often confusion about my medication when I am seeing doctors that work in different parts of the health system. And the doctor might not have enough time to go through all of my concerns. But there is help: PatientKnowsBest has established itself as the go-to partner for outpatient communications. Patient Knows Best allows me to write my worries and symptoms into a diary and share notes in advance with my doctor. I can read my clinic letters, check the medication and send my doctor a message if there are errors or I have a question after the consultation. I might even be able to see my blood results. This should keep the need for time at the clinic to a minimum.

This type of thinking has really entered NHS main stream in Southampton. In 2016 their electronic records was named the best use of IT in the NHS. The innovative IT team from Southampton’s have developed a platform for their patients with prostate problems that allow patients to directly access test results, book appointments, answer some simple questionnaires and surveys, and have secure email consultations with their specialist. This has had massive benefits for patients with prostate problems: many of them don’t need to come to hospital anymore. Their blood tests can be locally, they can check results and only if results or questionnaires cause concern they will need a contact with their doctor or nurse. But even this could be online. For Southampton this meant that they need 1000s of outpatient appointments less. And could treat other patients in need of help faster.

While the NHS is in a staffing crisis, it is the crisis in innovation that stops patients from getting the services that only NHS professionals can deliver.

With the right technology patients and their friends and family are ready to step in and help today!

Are patients and carers willing to take on other work that has traditionally been done by healthcare professionals health?

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