NHS given £40m to address "ridiculous" staff login times

Clinical staff typically sign in to as many as 15 different systems while seeing a patient

Clinician's computer meltdown

The government has invested £40 million into reducing the time clinical staff spend logging into NHS systems in a bid to improve cyber security hygiene.

Described as one of the greatest technology frustrations facing NHS staff, the logging-in process can often involve clinicians having to enter their personal details into several different computer programmes while seeing patients. 

In some cases, staff have reported having to access 15 computer systems at a time in order to carry out their work. This poses a staggering contrast with the relatively seamless logging-in process for most private-sector workers.

The investment aims to support projects similar to that pursued by the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, which rolled out a single sign-on platform to reduce login time.

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The government said that Alder Hey managed to slash login times from an average of 1 min 45 seconds to just ten seconds – an approximate tenfold reduction.

“It is frankly ridiculous how much time our doctors and nurses waste logging on to multiple systems,” said health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, announcing the new funding.

“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.”

The £40 million investment will be channelled into three areas, principally working with IT suppliers to standardise logins and provide multi-factor authentication, such as biometric authentication, as opposed to password-led authentication. 

The project will also focus on giving NHS trusts the means to control permissions for staff across various levels, as well as integrating local and national IT systems.

The move is also being treated as a means to boosting general cyber security hygiene, with the sheer plethora of different systems meaning staff could often be reusing passwords. 

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Biometric authentication, too, is generally seen as more secure than conventional password security.

“Today’s announcements mean we can start to tackle one of the biggest gripes staff have with their tech,” said NHSX chief executive Matthew Gould. “It will allow staff across the NHS to spend more time with their patients and less time fighting their computers.”

He added on Twitter that he hoped it showed that NHSX is listening, citing research that showed ‘taking too long to login’ was the second biggest tech frustration NHS staff face, following slow and unreliable hardware.

The government also announced a separate £4.5 million funding package to improve technology in social care, with local authorities given cash to develop new adult social care digital initiatives.

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