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NHS England in u-turn on new technology


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Thursday, 17 August 2017

NHS England in u-turn on new technology

NHS England has reversed its decision to ban a controversial new technology from the workplace.

The national commissioning body had previously said there was “no valid reason” for use of the telephone in the NHS, but now acknowledges that it “may be useful” in certain circumstances.

An NHS England spokesperson, Katie Canute, said: “We accept that the telephone has a potential role to play in helping staff to communicate. It may provide extra capacity during busy times when a wireless telegraph operator is unavailable.”

She warned that use of the telephone would be restricted to trained and qualified personnel only and even then only under the supervision of a senior manager. Discussion of individual patients, financial or medical matters would be strictly prohibited.

NHS England had previously expressed concerns that the telephone could spread disease, promote lewd and indecent behaviour or cause instant electrocution. A technical risk analysis found no basis for these concerns, but NHS Analogue continues to investigate claims by the BMA that evil spirits could use telephone lines to enter doctors’ surgeries and hospitals.   

“We fully appreciate the need to move with the times, but we also have a duty to staff and patients to mitigate the risk of demonic possession,” Ms Canute said.

Preparations for the introduction of telephone services are getting underway. NICE is about to publish a draft guideline for clinical uses of the device across all the major disease areas. The NHS Leadership Academy is developing a course for senior managers entitled Tomorrow’s Telephonic Leaders Today. NHS Improvement is considering call-time efficiency targets and NHS England promises national guidance “in due course”.  

Up to 20 hospitals will initially be selected as “analogue exemplars”, each with its own telephone line and two trained operators. The operators’ job will be to hold conversations with their counterparts at other sites, then relay the messages either in person or by use of typed memos (the Department of Health has already announced that handwritten notes are to be phased out by 2030, though sources expect this deadline to slip).

The pilots are not expected to start until at least next spring to allow for construction of soundproof booths to prevent calls being overheard and the installation of a state-of-the-art Strowger telephone exchange at Richmond House, which will be personally supervised by the secretary of state for health.   

NHS England listed a number of potentially exciting uses for the telephone in future, including a “speaking clock” and a “dial a disc” service for listening to popular music.

Ms Canute said: “It may seem far-fetched now, but we can even foresee a time when the health secretary could telephone the chief executives of hospitals to joke with them about why they are missing their performance targets.”

Science fiction editor: Julian Patterson

(Inspired by NHS England relaxes position on clinicians' use of WhatsApp, Health Service Journal, 14 August 2017. You need to be an HSJ subscriber to view the story.)


Anonymous says:
Aug 18, 2017 09:00 AM

But not everyone in government regulation is is happy with this development - a spokesman said:

"Since our inception in 1984 our messages to everyone in the NHS have been clear (i) a trip to hospital is a matter of the utmost secrecy and (ii) the promotion of a climate of fear around the whole issue. Careless Talk Costs Lives, as we say around here.
Let’s be really clear: not even the doctors and nursing treating the patient must know that they are in, or what’s wrong with them. Among our other successes are ceasing the inappropriate use of patients’ names when addressing them and the phased removal of so-called “Nightingale” wards where up to 30 inpatients are housed in plain view of each other.
If individual patients are choosing to tweet their diagnoses, Facebook their obs charts and Instagram the hospital food, that is a private matter for them and we entirely respect their right to do so.
We have grave concerns about the introduction of the electric telephone in the NHS as none of the safeguards proposed is robust and it will not be long before information about patients is being shared between agencies, which would be a serious transgression of everything we stand for- until relatively recently, anyway.
Be assured that we will be monitoring this pilot very carefully – but this new strand of activity will not distract us from our principal role, overseeing where hospitals are refusing to divulge the confidential information which the keyboard warrior community are surely entitled to receive.
We know many people are already being bothered at home by nuisance phone calls, in some instances losing their life savings as a result - we promise to take robust and unequivocal action on this issue soon, but we ask people to be patient while we tackle the really important stuff.