Doctors have become so frustrated with “technological inadequacies” that they have taken to sharing sensitive medical records over WhatsApp and personal email accounts, a new report has revealed.
Frontline medical staff admitted bypassing the official IT system because it is “no longer fit for purpose”, with many complaining of 10-minute log-on times for tasks that need to be repeated several times a day.
Commenting on the findings, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said it was “simply not acceptable” that outdated IT systems were getting in the way of NHS staff doing their job.
He said: “If you work in the NHS, in any part of the service, too often old, out-of-date 20th century IT systems get in the way of your ability to do your job.
“It is simply not acceptable that our dedicated healthcare staff are spending their time logging in to multiple devices during the day rather than caring for patients.”
The report, from WPI Economics, also found that mental health-related staff absences are costing the NHS £3 billion a year, with the average worker taking seven days off every 12 months.
It warned that these figures could be an “underestimate” of the full scale of mental health crisis in the NHS due to potential “discrimination” that workers may face.
“The findings identify a crisis in mental health amongst the NHS workforce and the impacts that stress, anxiety and burnout have on healthcare workers, patients and the overall costs of the NHS,” it says.
Matthew Oakley, a former Treasury official and the author of the report, warned that the coronavirus pandemic “can only act to make this worse”.