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Health Minister sees DHCW digital innovations in action

Health Minister Eluned Morgan saw Digital Heath and Care Wales (DHCW)  systems and services in action during visits to DHCW’s Cardiff office and Neath Port Talbot (NPT) Hospital this month.

On a visit to NPT Hospital the Health Minister saw first hand how a new digital ward concept is transforming time-consuming documentation processes for healthcare staff and patients.

Key to this are two digital systems, the Welsh Nursing Care Record (WNCR) and e-Prescribing and Medicines Administration (EPMA), which are being rolled out across Wales. They are saving time and improving efficiency, bolstering patient safety and quality of care, and saving money for Health Boards.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:

“The benefits of the new digital systems we are funding are clear to see. They are streamlining administrative processes for healthcare staff and allowing them to focus on patient care.

“As well as cutting waiting times and improving quality of care they are also saving health boards money amid an extremely challenging financial climate.

“Innovations such as this are exactly the sort of solutions that will help us provide an NHS fit for the future.”

While visiting DHCW’s Cardiff office in a separate visit, the Minster met with DHCW’s Chair Simon Jones, CEO Helen Thomas, Medical Director Rhidian Hurle, Director for Primary, Community and Mental Health Digital Services Sam Hall and the Assistant Director of Cyber Jamie Graham.

The team took the opportunity to talk to the Minister about some of  the key digital systems and services which are helping to support NHS Wales colleagues as well as the work DHCW are doing around cybersecurity.

The WNCR allows clinicians to record, share and access patient information electronically across wards, hospitals and health boards.

Fran Beadle, Chief Nursing Information Officer for DHCW – which developed WNCR in partnership with all health boards and trusts in NHS Wales – said:

“WNCR has transformed nursing in Wales by standardising documents and providing a digital solution in practice, to enhance patient safety and experience. Collaboration, engagement and listening to feedback from nursing staff has been the true success of this project.”

DHCW CEO Helen Thomas said the WNCR is a great example of how digital is supporting the whole pathway of care for patients and citizens in Wales: “We’re providing digital solutions for NHS Wales which are helping to improve patient care by making services safer and improving efficiency.

 “We were delighted that the Minister took the time to see some our systems in action and hear about key areas of focus to ensure our digital and data systems are able to effectively support our NHS Wales colleagues during these challenging times.” 

One piece of research found that across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health board area, between August 2021 and July 2023, it saved 1,357,827 pieces of paper documentation – the equivalent of 135 trees. It also saw an estimated £1.66 less spent on printing per patient – resulting in annual savings of around £132,800.

All Health Boards and most hospitals across Wales are now using the electronic nursing records, with the remainder set to come on board by March 2024.

EPMA provides an electronic system for the prescribing and administering of medicines for patients in hospital.

In the Swansea Bay University Health Board area it has:

  • Saved more than 2000 hours of prescriber time each year from re-writing lost, missing or full medication charts at Neath Port Talbot, and a further 3,600 hours a year at Singleton Hospital.
  • Reduced the time spent on individual drug rounds per nurse, per ward by 10 minutes at Neath Port Talbot and 6 minutes at Singleton.
  • Saved 3,300 nursing hours per year searching for medication charts at Neath Port Talbot and 5,600 hours per year at Singleton.
  • Significantly reduced errors associated with medicine prescribing and administration.

All other Health Boards and Trusts will start implementing the system from 1st April 2024.

The Health Minister was also shown an electronic system for patient flow, called Signal, developed by Swansea Bay University Health Board.

This is further helping to improve patient safety and remove delays in patient care. Other Health Boards in Wales are interested in adopting the system.  

Signal keeps a digital eye on patients from their admission to hospital, to their discharge. It makes staff involved in their care aware of any support they need to leave hospital as soon as can. This includes details of a package of care they might need before they can leave.

The system is used across Swansea Bay to support on-line board rounds carried out by clinicians looking after patients. It means every member of the team involved in a patient’s care has the information available digitally, in real time, no matter where they may physically be.

Signal also provides hospital management with an overview of what’s going on in all the clinical areas. It gives vital real-time information about capacity across all health board sites, and helps to identify areas which may require additional support.