Nurses drowning in a sea of paperwork

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NURSES are swamped by paperwork which is preventing them caring for patients, the Royal College of Nursing Scotland has warned.

The union said research showed that the increasing burden of administrative work faced by nurses meant an estimated 279,000 hours a week in Scotland was spent on non-essential paperwork and clerical tasks.

The survey of almost 800 nurses in Scotland found nine out of ten (89 per cent) said the amount of filing, photocopying and ordering supplies had increased in the last two years. Over half – 56 per cent – said it had increased dramatically. The poll also revealed that 86 per cent of nurses said that having to complete nonessential paperwork prevented them from providing direct patient care.

RCN Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe said: “Some paperwork is essential and nurses have to complete it for patient safety and quality assurance purposes. However, patients expect nurses to be caring for them, not ticking boxes.

“The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil, has recognised the burden of paperwork on senior charge nurses and how it affects their ability to oversee patient care and lead nursing teams on our hospital wards.

“This is a step in the right direction and we hope that his actions will suit his words and he will make sure paperwork does not get in the way of senior charge nurses being able to do their job effectively.”

The survey also found that more than a third of the nurses surveyed (38 per cent) said their workplace did not have a ward clerk or administrative assistant to help with clerical duties. The majority (82 per cent) thought that if they did, they would be able to spend more time providing direct patient care.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Good information is vital to high quality patient care and vital to drive improvement, but we need to ensure that frontline staff are freed from any unnecessary paperwork which might distract them from delivering good patient care.”