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£13 million technology investment for NHS Wales’ intensive care patients

Helen Thomas, interim Director NHS Wales Informatics Service and Paul Lawrence, Ascom UK Managing Director

Hospitals in Wales are to benefit from a new high-tech digital-monitoring system for seriously ill people in intensive care units. 

Following a pledge by Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething to accelerate digital improvements for critical care, the NHS Wales Informatics Service has signed a £13 million contract with the supplier ASCOM.

The seven-year agreement for ASCOM’s Digistat software delivers a managed service and provides a technical platform to develop the all-Wales Intensive Care Information System.

Funding is provided by Welsh Government, Health Boards and the Critical Care Trauma Network.

Digital innovation will transform critical care by automating the collection of data from the sophisticated monitors and devices used to support patients with life-threatening illness or injuries.

With increasing pressure on intensive care services, reducing the administrative burden on NHS Wales staff will free-up more time for patient care. More than 10,000 people are admitted for critical care in Welsh hospitals each year.

At present staff at Wales’ 14 Intensive Care Units, with a total of 198 beds, are mainly required to complete extensive paper charts to record vital life-signs.

Automation will make real-time information available across a range of devices, forming part of the patient’s digital patient record, streamlining care processes. Integration with NHS Wales systems will enable intensive care staff to:

  • Record patient assessments electronically
  • Manage prescriptions and drug administration at the bedside
  • Connect with bedside equipment to record vital signs and fluid balance
  • Calculate a patient’s acuity scores
  • Better manage infection control
  • Manage daily care plans
  • Create reports on results and department objectives
  • Support national audit and research needs

Information will also be collated in a dynamic database, which can also be used to benchmark against other healthcare systems and provide a platform for research and potential implementation of artificial intelligence-driven improvements in daily care.

Mr Gething said: “Our Welsh intensive care services deliver extraordinary services helping people when they are critically ill.The introduction of this innovative technology will enhance the care patients receive and allow doctors and nurses to spend as much time as possible caring for patients. The use of technology to deliver a sustainable NHS is a key part of A Healthier Wales, our long-term strategy for health and social care in Wales.”

Professor Tamas Szakmany, national clinical lead and consultant at The Royal Gwent Hospital, said: “The new system will make the life of frontline critical care staff easier by cutting waste, duplication and potential for error.  It will enable us to work seamlessly across organisational boundaries, to share good practice and to rapidly implement change driven by evidence.”

Geraint Walker, national nursing lead and staff nurse at Morriston Hospital, said: “It will enable us as nurses to manage patient care more efficiently and will in turn help us enhance the care we deliver.”

Helen Thomas, interim Director NHS Wales Informatics Service, commented: “We are very pleased to collaborate on the delivery and implementation of this new exciting system, which will help to strengthen intensive care provision in Wales.”

The new Grange University Hospital, which will serve the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, will be the first to adopt the new system in summer 2021.Planned roll out will then follow to all NHS Wales intensive care units.