Paperwork not helping nurses provide care

Britain's nurses are weighed down by paperwork. Picture: Greg Macvean
Britain's nurses are weighed down by paperwork. Picture: Greg Macvean
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BRITAIN’S nurses spend an estimated 2.5 million hours a week on “non-essential” paperwork and clerical tasks, according to research.

The Royal College of Nursing believes nurses are burdened with too much paperwork and too many targets. I think every nurse would support that belief.

The view adopted by the inspectors and auditors appears to be “if it’s not written down, it’s not happening”. In reality, there can be a well-written care plan but the quality of care might bear no resemblance to what is set out within the care plan.

Nurses would much rather spend their time caring for patients or residents than completing paperwork. Unless nurses are producing excellent care plans, care home grades will suffer.

Thirty years ago, written care plans did not exist, but the care delivered was, in the main, excellent. Perhaps this was because nurses did not have to spend much of their time producing the volume of paperwork that is necessary today.

I believe in the benefit of care plans today – they are the way forward and, if written well, can have a substantial effect and improve the quality of care. Documentation is a crucial aspect of care, which facilitates the continuity of care, and forms an accurate record of care provided.

It is now vitally important that the quality of resident’s care and nursing documentation is of the highest standard. A good system of care planning can undoubtedly help nurses and carers complete the paperwork quicker and more comprehensively.

The challenges facing everyone in the care sector are growing exponentially with constant changes in law, increased regulation and the potential threat of litigation. The focus on nursing appears to have changed and, instead of it being a wonderful, satisfying and fulfilling occupation, it is now very much a race against time. It is in everyone’s interest that the standards of care improve.

The National Health Service is such a wonderful institution and it has to survive and flourish. Progress is a great thing, but there needs to be a balance to ensure there is no deterioration in the very core standards and values of nursing. We need to rethink the path we are taking.

• Sheena Caplan is a nurse specialising in support for the elderly and founder of Planning for Care


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