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2.5 million hours of paperwork for nurses

A survey has revealed that nurses spend up to 2.5 million hours a week on clerical and administration tasks, reducing the amount of time they have to care for patients.

The research, conducted by IBM, was presented at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)’s annual conference. It shows that the amount of paperwork nurses are required to completed has more than doubled over the last five years. 81% of those surveyed said the demand prevented them from attending to patients.

Dr Peter Carter, head of the RCN, said: "These figures prove what a shocking amount of a nurse's time is being wasted... Yes, some paperwork is essential and nurses will continue to do this, but patients want their nurses by their bedside, not ticking boxes."

Health minister Dan Poulter said: “Patients, not paperwork, must be our NHS's priority.”

Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “Getting it wrong can be life-threatening. Good paperwork when handling patient records, care plans, medication records and observation charts is crucial to high quality care. We do patients a disservice by suggesting it’s a marginal activity.

“We all want to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and too many organisations tell us they have unnecessary paperwork. Technology has an important role and is an increasing part of the continuous professional development provided to nurses each year.

“But for too long staff who support nurses have been vilified as pen pushers and overheads, whereas the survey shows the importance of the entire healthcare team in providing good care. I hope this survey helps to highlight that frontline care includes those who diligently support our nurses and shows we can be more efficient by using the right staff on the right pay rate at the right time.”

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.

The NHS has tolerated far more information being demanded from it than necessarily serves its purpose. This must change.

Much of the problem at the moment lies in the fact that there are often multiple requests for information which isn't always shared between departments, organisations and regulators. This information needs to be streamlined so it is properly shared with patients and the public to help inform the decisions they make about their care, and across NHS organisations and the wider health system to look at how we can improve the care we deliver.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


Marion Collict   24/04/2013 at 19:32

I am glad that this is now being highlighted and given the attention it deserves.. Since last October we have been piloting a new model of care at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital that puts nurses back at the bedside and reduces unnecessary paperwork. We have seen patient and staff satisfaction improve as well as a reduction in staff absence.

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