Professor Dame June Clark, University of Wales


Today sees the launch of a new campaign by the Community Practitionersí and Health Visitorsí Association called Make IT Happen.

The IT stands for information technology. The NHS is going through a period of radical change. As we, and people in other organizations have learnt, the key to managing rapid change and adapting to new demands is access to information. The information is increasingly available. And the technology that gives access to it is available.

Our concern is that it is not yet available to a group of people who have a key role to play in providing and interpreting information about health to the public who need it Ė health visitors and community nurses. Our aim is to ensure that every health visitor and community nurse has a computer on his/her desk, access to key information sources such as the internet, and the proper training to use it - in line with the governmentís £1 billion drive to ensure that all NHS clinical and support staff should have desk top access to basic email, browsing and directory services by March 2002.

All four countries of the UK have government strategies for the development of IM&T in the NHS, with clear goals and targets.   Unfortunately, a survey of CPHVA members conducted through the Community Practitioner journal last month shows that this is not being implemented at local level. Worse, where Trusts are beginning to move, the focus is on hospitals and managers, and community practitioners appear to be last on the list.

The results of the survey are in the briefing paper, which is with your conference packs. I wonít deluge you with statistics, but there are some facts that stand out.

1. Seven out of ten health visitors and school nurses say that they would "significantly" improve their service to clients if they had full access to the NHS information technology revolution.

2. Four out of five community practitioners who do have computer access at work have to share with, on average, seven other colleagues.

3. It also revealed that 66 per cent of community practitioners donít have access to the internet and 65 per cent donít have use of email. Three out of ten donít have access to a computer in their workplace at all.

4. Of those that have a computer at work, 57 per cent donít have access to the child health information system, 50 per cent canít access the internet, 47 per cent canít access the trust/employer information system and 45 per cent are unable to use the NHS Ne

5. Nearly four out of ten health visitors have never had training to use a computer and/or searching the internet. And of those who say they have had training, 13 per cent say they are self-taught.

These figures make depressing reading. The CPHVA wants the governmentís bold plans for the NHS to be translated into an IT reality on the daily frontline of healthcare. The CPHVA will be urging our members to lobby NHS employers across the UK to see that they have the necessary tools to do their job effectively in todayís modern workplace and that the information strategies for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are implemented. C

CPHVA members are saying very loudly that they recognise that information is the key to the services they provide, and if they had the full range of IT equipment to enable faster access, and proper training the most significant improvement in their performance would be that their clients would benefit because of faster access to new information.

The CPHVA will be running the Make IT Happen campaign with the Community Psychiatric Nurses Association. Both organisations being professionally autonomous sections of the MSF trade union.

I would urge CPHVA and CPNA members in the four countries of the UK Ė England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Ė to make use of the campaigning pack to ensure their voice is heard by NHS employers and that health visitors and community nurses receive the full benefits of the IT revolution in the NHS.

Thank you.

16th July 2001