IT spend by hospital trust ‘will eliminate five million pieces of paper a year’

Hospital bosses say more than £8m being spent on new digital systems will eliminate more than five million pieces of paper used by staff each year.

Sue Page, the chief executive of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the investment in new tech would remove clinicians’ “historical reliance on burdensome paper-based record keeping” and ageing computer systems.

This in turn would free up more time for doctors and nurses to care for patients at the organisation.

The chief executive said a new electronic prescribing system – ‘Better Meds’ – was also being implemented to help review and administer medication, which again would replace paper-based processes.

In May the Care Quality Commission published the findings of a focused inspection at the trust’s James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, which downgraded ratings given for surgery and medical care from ‘good’ to ‘requiring improvement’.

The care watchdog said risks to patients were not consistently assessed and they did not always have enough to eat or drink, and in some cases weren’t being safely discharged.

The CQC issued a warning notice – known as a section 29A – to the trust to make significant improvements.

A report updating the trust’s board of directors on work that was being carried out to address the CQC findings said action was already being taken in the areas highlighted and additional changes had been made following feedback from inspectors.

It said another digital tool being introduced had started to replace the paper-based recording of nutrition and hydration assessments and a “strengthened approach” had been reintroduced around mealtimes.

In addition, a transfer of care hub had been created in collaboration with local authorities to support staff working on wards and social workers to return people safely home after their hospital treatment.

The report said: “Colleagues are making immediate changes as part of the organisation’s clinically-led recovery from covid-19 and will continue to take forward the actions required to make in response to inspectors’ findings.”

At the same time as responding to the CQC’s concerns, an updated improvement plan covering the entire trust has been recently signed off, which is focused on delivering “outstanding care” to patients and “getting back to our best”.

South Tees has been in the overall ‘requiring improvement’ category ever since a CQC inspection back in 2019 with bosses anticipating a return visit by inspectors later this year.