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Is the NHS finally ready to embrace mobile working?

Mobile working is beginning to establish itself within the NHS as a means of greatly improving patient care, but has it taken too long to gain traction?

Last week, 24N headed along to mobile working solutions provider TotalMobile’s Health and Social Care Question Time to hear health and social care professionals discuss whether mobile working is the solution that can save the NHS.

The event brought together health informatics experts, care professionals, independents and local government stakeholders.

The panel included community health firm CEO Julia Clarke, independent technology consultant on healthcare IT Dr Simon Wallace, NHS IT leader Graham Softley, local government senior executive Sarah Royles and mobile technology evangelist Gareth Tolerton.

According to the day’s speakers, mobile working in the UK healthcare system is a revolution – a good revolution that gathered supporters very quickly.

“We have been able to overcome barriers quickly, it’s a revolution that people have been happy to join and I think it has revolutionised the way we work internally and so there’s been a bit of a staff revolution and it has revolutionised the way we can provide care,” claimed Julia Clarke, CEO at Community Interest Company (CIC) Bristol Community Health.

“We’ve got quality benefits, productivity benefits and staff welfare and wellbeing benefits, so that’s a big change,” she added.

Clarke’s organisation is a NHS mutual spinout which has spearheaded the use of mobile working – 80 per cent of staff currently have mobile access at the point of care, wherever that may be.

Her thoughts were echoed by former GP Dr Simon Wallace, who claims that mobile working equals information at your fingertips for all healthcare professionals, giving them the information required to make good quality decisions in a very timely manner – a revolutionary concept.

“For me, the whole mobile working piece is having information at my fingertips, out in the community, wherever I am at the time I need it. I think that’s the real opportunity – not just for GPs but for healthcare professionals,” Dr Wallace claimed.

Mobile working in local government

When it comes to the adoption of mobile working in the wider public sector, the NHS and local government seem to be at a similar level.

“Cultural change is a big thing for our workers, but we have got a network of super users who are early adopters who have really taken it on board and they are now the ones who are evangelising to other workers,” claimed Sarah Royles, service development manager at Nottinghamshire County Council.

“It’s getting the word out there to the workers themselves so that they are being revolutionary themselves,” she added.

Meanwhile, Graham Softley, associate director of IT strategy and delivery at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, claimed that the revolution is much bigger than mobile working itself.

“I think the revolution is bigger than mobile working. As we vertically integrate in Trusts I think part of the benefits are about the integration and interoperability between various areas of care,” Softley claimed.

“We looked at the future and we know that one of the next stages is to actually start integrating with social care as well. So I think it’s part of a much larger revolution which can only be good I think,” he added.

Patient benefits

Of course, one of the most important aspects in the discussion about mobile working is the effects it can have on the patient.

“There are definitely benefits for our patients and when asked they say its use makes them feel more involved in their care,” claimed Royles.

“The ability to have a nurse with the information to hand being able to avoid admissions into the acute sector is great for any and all patients being treated at home, as well as for the taxpayers,” added Softley.

TotalMobile has worked with a number of public sector organisations to help them reap the benefits of mobile working, including Nottinghamshire County Council, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Humber NHS Foundation Trust.

“The discussion demonstrated the importance and power of mobile working in the NHS and local government,” claimed the firm’s CEO Colin Reid.

“It has been made clear that this is something that all health and social care providers should be looking at now. It really does have the power to transform how care services delivered and creates significant extra workforce capacity by saving each user one to two hours per day,” he added.