Nurses 'given too much paperwork'

DISTRICT nurses are being forced to spend too much time on paperwork and bureaucracy, which is affecting morale and limiting the time they spend with patients, it has been warned.

Craig Robinson

DISTRICT nurses are being forced to spend too much time on paperwork and bureaucracy, which is affecting morale and limiting the time they spend with patients, it has been warned.

It has led to fears that many frontline staff are suffering from stress because they are having to work longer hours and spend more of their day in front of a computer screen.

There are around 605 full-time district nurses working in patient and outpatient units - including qualified and unqualified staff - across the whole of the county.


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Bernadette Smith, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) steward for Suffolk, said many were feeling the strain of more and more red tape.

“The amount of paperwork has increased enormously in the last 10 years and computer work in particular,” she said.

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“It has all been growing in line with fears of litigation - you have to record every interaction with the patient.

“It's difficult to say how many extra hours a week nurses are having to work because it's so entrenched as part of our working day - but it's true to say that it's an issue.”

She said that in some cases four nurses were now required to write up notes for a single patient - depending on their area of expertise - whereas 20 years ago this would have taken just one.

Janet Massey, honorary secretary of the Suffolk branch of the British Medical Association (BMA), also voiced fears that many frontline nurses were facing burnout.

“It's all to do with data collection,” she said. “All of the frontline people - district nurses, community nurses and health workers - have to write down what they do.

“This is a big issue. Those working in the NHS are now required to collect an awful lot of data - nurses are coming back into the office and there are not enough computers available and they are working late into the evenings.

“Asking them to collect data and write it up is obviously extra stress. More bureaucracy is leading to longer hours.

“First and foremost their time should be spent with patients - not reading emails and filling in forms. Why should nurses be driven to do a lot of computer work when in fact their job is to look after people?”

But last night Dawn Godbold, strategic head of adult services at Suffolk Community Healthcare, disputed the fears saying work load has not increased.

“The amount of paperwork which staff are asked to complete has not changed,” she said. “None of our nurses are working longer shifts, unless they have requested to as part of the flexible working policy.

“Staff with concerns are encouraged to contact their line manager so that we can help with any issues they have.”

She acknowledged that community nurses worked “extremely hard” and said the primary care trust was rolling out a new computerised record-keeping system to enable the sharing of records with GPs.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said some paper work was essential to safe and effective patient care.

“Important nursing activities may include completing patient care plans and records,” she said.

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