A member of the group overseeing Downing Street’s drive to supply nurses with IT has expressed concern that tight timescales were leading to the exclusion of nurses from the project’s design, HSJ has discovered.
David Cameron announced the launch of the Nursing Technology Fund in October last year, promising a £100m investment in technology to help nurses “spend more time at the bedside”.
A Department of Health timetable document says the two-year project is due to conclude in April 2015 - one month before the general election. However, it has emerged that the project is currently two months behind schedule.
HSJ has obtained minutes of the only minuted meeting of the steering group overseeing the project, using the Freedom of Information Act.
At the session in June, one member, whose identity was redacted, “expressed concern about the tight timetable, especially when it came to securing nursing input into the application and decision-making processes”.
“She asked whether we could negotiate a month’s delay with Jane [Cummings, NHS England’s chief nursing officer] and Viv [Bennett, the DH’s director of nursing],” the minutes stated. The paper names the two nurses as joint senior responsible officers for the project.
The minutes recorded that another member of the project team, whose identity was also redacted, “pointed out that any slippage could be politically difficult, given the timing of the announcement”.
Another document from the meeting said the call for applications was due to be launched in mid-July and close by 2 September.
The DH this week told HSJ that responsibility for the project had passed to NHS England, which “will announce the opening of the application process in the coming weeks”.
NHS England confirmed applications were not yet open.
Last October Mr Cameron was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying: “What we’re announcing is £100m extra into the NHS specifically to help our brilliant nurses with new technology so they can spend even more time at the bedside with their patients.” He said the project showed how the Conservatives were “the only party” committed to increasing the NHS’s budget.
HSJ this week asked how the project was funded, and if its cost was part of the DH’s departmental expenditure limit for 2013-14, set by the Treasury. A DH spokesman said the administration of the fund was NHS England’s responsibility, while an NHS England spokesman said the financing of the project was a matter for the DH.
The DH has subsequently confirmed that the £100m is part of its departmental expenditure limit and is not extra money from the Treasury.