enovation

'Middle managers in the NHS are thwarting the government's determination to ensure that health visitors and community nurses enjoy the full benefits of the IT revolution in the health service.'Discuss.

It may be unfair to say this is happening deliberately.But there is a perception - and all too often it is the reality - that community nurses are at the back of the queue when it comes to having a computer on their desk, access to the Internet and the necessary training.

The Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors'Association carried out a survey this summer, revealing that 66 per cent of community practitioners do not have access to the Internet and 65 per cent do not have access to e-mail.

Even those community nurses who do have a computer have, in four out of five cases, to share it with an average of seven other colleagues.

The government's target is that by 31 March next year, all NHS clinical and support staff should have desktop access to basic e-mail, browsing and directory services.As long ago as 1998, prime minister Tony Blair said: 'The challenge for the NHS is to harness the information revolution and use it to benefit patients.'

In January this year, health secretary Alan Milburn said: 'In the last two years, we have made an additional£214m available to support modernisation of NHS information systems.'More money is available in the next three years.

So why are things not happening across the board for community nurses? One theory is that the money has got 'lost' in the belly of the beast - NHS bureaucracy.

Another reason for the lack of investment in community nursing could be the confusion of the term 'primary care' for 'GP services'. Too often, money has been invested in GP practice IT systems, without regard to the information needs of community nurses.Now is the time to redress this imbalance.

We all have to work together - managers, doctors, nurses and the professions allied to medicine - to make the NHS plan and the individual healthcare plans for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland work for the benefit of patients.

Health visitors and community nurses need the IT tools to provide a first-class service to their clients.

The CPHVA and the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association are making IT provision the focus of their Make IT Happen campaign, aimed at those NHS employers dragging their feet.

The money is there, the government will is there - it is now time for NHS managers to make it happen for community nurses.

Ruth Hudson is professional officer, education and professional development, for the Community Practitioners'and Health Visitors'Association