An increase in paperwork is preventing nurses from spending enough time caring for patients, according to a new survey for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
The increasing burden of administration imposed on nurses means they spend more than a million hours every week on paperwork and clerical tasks . At its annual Congress, the RCN has called for investment in administrative support for all frontline nurses in order to free up more of their time to care for patients.
The ICM survey of more than 1,700 nurses found that the vast majority (88%) believed that non-essential paperwork such as filing, photocopying and ordering supplies, had increased over the past five years yet only a fifth (22%) had seen an increase in administrative support in their workplace to help meet this demand.
More than one in four nurses (28%) had no access at all to clerical support despite the majority (85%) firmly believing that help with paperwork would mean they could spend more time caring for patients.
Nurses working in the community and in outpatient departments were hardest hit with two-fifths having to complete all their own clerical tasks.
Even nurses who did have access to clerical support had, on average, less than three hours (2.7 hours) direct help each week despite spending up to twice this amount of time on administrative duties.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN, said: “Nurses are clearly feeling the burden of non-essential paperwork. The danger is that this is undermining their ability to care for patients and support relatives.
“We know that the money needed to fund this support is available to the NHS right now. The government could use just some of last year’s £2 billion NHS surplus to free up nurses from non-essential paperwork, so that they can spend every minute of their shift providing quality patient care.”