Excessive paperwork is preventing nurses from caring for their patients, a Royal College of Nursing survey reveals.
The increasing burden of administrative work on nurses means they spend an estimated 2.5 million hours a week on non-essential paperwork and clerical tasks - more than double the 2008 figure. This equates to an average of 17.3% of all the hours worked by NHS nurses in the UK.
The vast majority (86%) of the 6,387 nurses who responded across the UK to the survey said the amount of non-essential paperwork such as filing, photocopying and ordering supplies had increased in the last two years, with over half saying it had increased dramatically.
In addition, more than three quarters (81%) of nurses working in every setting surveyed said that having to complete non-essential paperwork prevented them from providing direct patient care.
Peter Meredith-Smith, of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said: “We are in a situation now where the paperwork is extremely burdensome and can be difficult to navigate. It has become a complex and time consuming nature of the process. We need to work toward eliminating redundant and non-value-added paperwork.”
More than a quarter (27%) of nurses said their workplace doesn’t have a ward clerk or administrative assistant who helps with clerical duties, and of those most (81%) thought having a ward clerk or administrative assistant would mean they would be able to spend more time providing direct patient care.
Worryingly, the survey also found that if technology is not used properly it can actually increase the workload of nursing staff. Over two-thirds (69%) said the use of Information Technology has increased the amount of time they spend on paperwork and administration.
Commenting on the findings, Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: “We fully recognise the story that the RCN’s survey tells. It is entirely consistent with the picture that has emerged during the first phase of our work on tackling the burden of bureaucracy in the NHS.
“More than four out of 10 NHS clinicians, managers and board members have told us they spend between one and three hours of their working day personally collecting and recording information. Three-quarters told us certain information collected for regulators or for national requirements is irrelevant.
“It is clear we need to do more to free staff from the shackles of unnecessary form filling and create more time to spend on patient care. We need a smarter system of information use, not a bigger one. And we need to embrace technology that helps rather than hinders staff, moving away from the paper-based archaic NHS.”