NHS Lothian's University Hospitals Division (NHSL-UHD) wants to equip half of its 12,500 staff with basic IT skills within 12 months, following a successful initial rollout of Thomson NETg's online e-learning system.
NHSL-UHD has given a rosy diagnosis for the scheme, which has already seen 1,600 doctors, nurses and other front-line staff sign up for the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) course since the system went live in December 2003.
Michael Newies, project manager at NHSL-UHD, said: "For the first time we can accurately quantify the IT skills within the organisation. And we also have plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the fact that we are seeing productivity benefits."
Newies added that delivering the course online was the most practical solution for the organisation.
"Given that we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year round, we need to have the most flexible approach possible of getting the training out to people," he said.
Under the scheme, staff at any level can request an ECDL course - a decision prompted by the prevalence of IT within today's health service.
"Some people don't even know how to put a Word document together or send an email. These days just about everyone needs IT: doctors, nurses, clinical support workers, medical secretaries, morticians, porters - you name it," said Newies.
More than 500 staff have already passed ECDL, but NHSL-UHD (the largest of four divisions within NHS Lothian) aims to have put 6,000 people through the course by this time next year.
In addition, NETg e-learning will next month be rolled out to NHS Lothian's other three divisions.
"We are planning to use it in our Primary Care, Health Board and West Lothian divisions to deliver ECDL as well as other IT and soft skills," said Newies.
Basic IT skills are not currently a mandatory requirement for all NHS staff, but employees had responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to learn, said Newies.
"As long as we give them the confidence and means to do it, we've found people will sign up for the course and get on with it," he added.
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