A new web portal for the NHS may free up staff time to concentrate on patient care.
The NHS project to deliver IT training to all of its 1.2 million employees is now poised to go live.
It will give users 24-hour access to training for the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) via a dedicated website at www.ecdl.nhs.uk. The facility will be opened up to all NHS staff on 21 March.
The portal is seen as key to supporting the successful implementation of a number of new NHS IT initiatives, including electronic patient records and integrated care systems, outlined as part of far reaching modernisation plans for the health service.
A spokeswoman for the NHS told vnunet.com: "IT will have far more of a supporting role in the delivery of patient care."
The NHS ECDL portal will include pre-assessments and quizzes to help with self-evaluation, online accredited tests and unlimited practice tests, together with the capability to monitor and track the progress of staff at an individual, group, health authority and NHS level.
The consortium of suppliers, led by Spring IT Training, is in the final testing phase of the project.
Some 12,000 active learners have already registered on the site, and 3,000 NHS staff have passed the ECDL qualification.
George Davies, ECDL project manager, and a qualified diagnostic radiographer and lecturer, said: "This standard is about everyone from porter to chief executive, receptionist to GP. This is about everybody having this standard set of skills.
"It's not about IT, it's about supporting clinical practice, and making it easier for people to do their job, spending more time with patients and less time with the technology."
Research undertaken with a pilot at Manchester Health Agency found that staff who have achieved the ECDL save approximately half an hour a day through not struggling with technology.
At the same time, 96 per cent of the Manchester users who had completed the ECDL said that they now rarely need to call IT support departments, compared to 71 per cent who did so regularly before achieving the standard.
Lavinia Wilkinson, project manager for the scheme at Manchester Health Agency, said: "That's 38 minutes per person per day more they are spending with their patients."
There are currently 500 trainers across 280 NHS learning centres, of which over 200 are accredited to administer the formal ECDL tests.
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