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Government to invest £40m to cut GP IT login times

Health secretary Matt Hancock has announced a £40m investment to upgrade ‘outdated’ frontline NHS technology by putting a stop to slow staff login times.

The investment will fund projects aimed at cutting the number of passwords needed to access different IT programmes, so that only one set of details is required.

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed to Pulse the money will be used for practices as well as NHS trusts, but was unable to say how much of the £40m will be given to GPs.

The Government said the new technology will ‘streamline’ the time it takes for NHS staff to access IT systems and will allow for more patient care.

The money will be given to projects that work with IT suppliers to create standardised login procedures and new ways of accessing systems – such as using finger prints – instead of traditional passwords.

But GPs have said multiple logins are not the most important issue and that old computers and slow internet speeds pose greater problems.

Dr Neil Bhatia, GP and IT lead at Oakley Health Group in Hampshire, welcomed the idea of improvements to login times but said streamlining them will not solve the ‘incredibly slow-running system’ after staff have logged in.

He said: ‘Multiple logins is an issue, but in my opinion, it’s not the most important one. 

‘We all have to open and run multiple programs, and whilst multiple logins are a pain, it isn’t really slowing things down. It’s simply that the PCs and the memory and the hard drives are all already outdated and slow.

‘Add that to internet speeds that are dwarfed by any home broadband connection and you have an incredibly slow-running system even after you have logged in.’

East London GP Dr Nick Mann added: ‘One login for all will improve startup, but the underlying problem is the increasing number of software platforms being required to integrate.

‘A few work well but many do not, so it’s not uncommon to have several IT problems in the course of a day.’

Announcing the investment, Mr Hancock said: ‘Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve.

‘It is frankly ridiculous how much time our doctors and nurses waste logging on to multiple systems. As I visit hospitals and GP practices around the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times staff complain about this.’

He added: ‘This investment is committed to driving forward the most basic frontline technology upgrades, so treatment can be delivered more effectively and we can keep pace with the growing demand on the NHS.’

The DHSC also announced it will fund a new programme that supports projects helping NHS trusts to make better use of digital technology.

The CQC will also begin to assess NHS trusts against a set of minimum technology standards, said the DHSC.

This time last year, Matt Hancock pledged to ‘overhaul’ GP IT systems and acknowledged their slow and ‘frustrating’ systems.

He later announced a £150m investment into IT resilience, a three-year package to support security and prevent cyber attacks.

More recently, the former RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard admitted it takes almost 20 minutes to start her computer in the morning in her practice.