MORE than £370,000 has been spent on 870 tablet devices for staff at Northern Devon Healthcare Trust in the last two and a half years.
Information obtained by the Journal shows the trust has spent more than £550,000 on laptops, tablet devices and mobile phones for staff since April 2011.
The trust confirmed £371,520 had been spent on issuing 870 tablet devices, including Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets, to community staff workers as part of a new initiative.
Northern Devon Healthcare Trust said investment in the tablets had meant the trust could save around £750,000.
Glen Everton, senior communications manager at Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, said these savings would come from money saved by not employing extra “data-inputting staff” to cover community services who “otherwise would have been required”.
However, Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the trust should justify the amount of money it spent on the “premium products”.
He said: “Tablets are often a premium product and come with a premium price tag. Health chiefs need to explain how the tablets will improve patient care and how they will save money.
“Given the trust is spending so much on tablets it should drastically cut its printing cost otherwise taxpayers will view these purchases as a waste.”
Last year, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust launched an initiative called ComPAS which saw more than 800 community staff workers given Samsung Galaxy 7 inch tablets to allow them to collect information while visiting patients.
Mr Everton said: “Without the ComPAS scheme and the Samsungs, we’d be £750,000 worse off and needing to make savings to offset the loss.
“It is one of those projects where not only do patients and staff get real benefits from the investment, but it saves money as well.”
The trust also confirmed it spent £175,486 on 240 laptops for staff members and £26,600 on 280 mobile phones which Mr Everton said were needed for a “modern workforce”.
He said: “Mobile phones and laptops are simply tools for the jobs that people do, especially those who travel a lot and have different bases around the whole patch.
“These mean people can work remotely, often wirelessly, and even from home if they can’t get to work in the snow, for example.
“In other words, it’s the sort of technology that we need for a modern, mobile workforce rather than one that’s tied to the office, the landline and the desktop computer.”
What is the ComPAS project?
NORTHERN Devon Healthcare Trust launched the ComPAS project last year.
As part of the initiative, community staff workers were given 7-inch Samsung Galaxy tablets to enable it to comply with the requirement to complete Community Information Data Sets (CIDS), which involves collecting 150 different data points on patients.
The trust said the tablets allowed community teams, who travel across the county to visit patients, to input data while out on the road instead of having to return to base.
The trust said the investment in the devices allowed it to save £500,000 around “planning and resourcing” and allowed it to collect data worth £250,000 at no extra cost.
An app has been developed for the tablets which enables workers to upload data regardless of whether they have a mobile signal or internet connection.
Keri Storey, assistant director of health and social care at Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, said: “When we started ComPAS we had two aims – to help NDHT deliver excellent community care and to ensure compliance with the Department of Health’s Community Information Data Set directive, which requires clinicians to collect various data sets on their activities and patient outcomes.
“We knew that for clinicians working in a rural area, mapping technology would be useful, as would access to email and these tools have really improved communications with both patients and colleagues.
“This was about much more than complying with CIDS – it’s about delivering better care and helping individuals live independent, healthy lives in their own homes.”