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Government injects £40m into single sign-on NHS programme

The government has put aside funding to speed up login times. Additional funding has been announced to support adult digital health services

The government has announced funding of £40m to speed up the slow login times clinicians experience across the NHS.

Slow login times is one of the top technology frustrations facing NHS clinicians. NHS staff currently have to log into multiple computer programs when tending to a patient, each of which requires its own login details.

Some staff need to log into as many as 15 different systems to do their job. This can be time consuming, and also requires busy staff to remember multiple complex passwords or use the same one on multiple systems – potentially a cyber security risk.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said the investment would ease the administrative burden and make the working lives of NHS staff easier, freeing up time for more one-on-one patient care. 

“I want to harness the best digital technology to improve care for patients and ease the burden on our staff,” he said. “To do that, we need to get the basics right. Too often, outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff, and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve.

“It’s 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.

“It’s no good in the 21st century having 20th century technology at work,” said Hancock. “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.”

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The funding will be used to support single sign-on login projects such as the project implemented at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, which reduced the time spent logging into multiple computer systems from 1 minute 45 seconds to just 10 seconds.

With almost 5,000 logins per day, the government believes a single sign-on system could save over 130 hours of staff time and free up their time to focus on patient care.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the digital transformation arm of the health service, said: “If you work in the NHS, the tech should not be getting in the way of your ability to do your job.

“Tech should be something you rarely think about because it just works,” he said. “Today’s announcements mean we can start to tackle one of the biggest gripes staff have with their tech. It will allow staff across the NHS to spend more time with their patients and less time fighting their computers.”

The “login project” will have three main areas of focus. First, the NHS will need to work with IT system suppliers to standardise logins and provide multi-factor logins. These will include the use of biometrics such as fingerprint access, rather than replying purely on password logins.

The second part of the login project will require NHS trusts to update their processes to give staff appropriate permissions to access the systems they need to treat patients. The final part involves integrating local and national systems so staff can access the clinical and workforce systems to support their needs.

Beyond the login project, the government also said it would be providing £4.5m in funding to help local authorities develop digital adult social care projects. These will include digital initiatives that use artificial intelligence and assistive technologies to help people to live independently for as long as possible, and improve information sharing across the NHS and social care.

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