This site is intended for health professionals only

Paperwork taking over patient care

28 January 2013

Share this article

Clinical staff will be taken away from patient care by “administrative burdens” warns a paper released late last week by the NHS Confederation. 
The membership body for NHS commissioners and service providers looked at how much “form-filling and box ticking” doctors and nurses might have to do because of changes to NHS structure. 
NHS Confederation members have said that administration is a “growing problem”, according to chief executive Mike Farrar. 
“We need to strike the right balance of providing information which allows patients to have a clear picture of the standards of care, without spending a disproportionate amount of time providing the same information to numerous organisations in different ways,” he said. 
“We are concerned that patient care could be affected because organisations and staff are distracted by the burdens of administrative requests from external organisations.
The NHS Confederation will be working with clinical staff to uncover where they are having most problems, and will feed back information to the government. 
Health Minister Lord Howe said: “There needs to be a balance between too much bureaucracy and making more data available to people, patients and carers to improve the quality of care.  
“The new NHS Mandate marks a shift away from narrow, process-focused targets to an NHS that concentrates on improving the quality of people’s experience.”  
Lord Howe added that the £140 million technology investment reported here in The Commissioning Review last week will help NHS nurses and midwives spend more time with patients. 
According to a Royal College of Nurses (RCN) survey last year, 53% of nurses said that clinical information systems were duplicating paper forms. 
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary said data need to be gathered “properly, with planning and oversight” so that it is used effectively.  
“While it is necessary to monitor care, record vital signs, and follow care plans, we are concerned that the burden is excessive and can be very poorly managed,” he said. 
“By working to ensure that clinical staff have the tools and systems they need, the NHS can get better value from their nurses and doctors.” 
The NHS Confederation report, Information Overload: Tackling Bureaucracy in the NHS assessed progress in lessening admin work for clinicians since 2009 and set out where new problems might arise. 
The NHS Confederation are worried that current NHS reforms will increase the administrative burden by making the system more complicated. 
Although some improvements have been noted, NHS Confederation members are still asked for unnecessary information multiple times.