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District nurses spend more time doing computer admin tasks than looking after patients, NHS chief says

This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/09/police-teachers-jealous-nhs-20m-birthday-award-simon-stevens/

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District nurses now spend more time completing admin tasks than caring for the elderly and infirm, the head of the NHS has said.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said nurses trained to look after patients in their homes are more likely to be found in front of a computer than out in the community.

Addressing a conference of NHS managers, he quoted research showing that community clinicians now spend an average of 88 days a year undertaking administration, compared to 87 having direct contact with patients.

Community or district nurses perform duties from administering medicines to wound care and continence management.

They are considered crucial if health chiefs are to realise their goal of treating fewer fewer patients unnecessarily in acute hospitals.

Mr Stevens said the health service had to radically rethink the way it cares for patients outside hospital. He also suggested that frustration at admin burden is prompting staff to leave the profession.

The challenge came as he said other public services were “jealous” of the £20 billion NHS five-year funding increased promised by Theresa May.

However, he warned managers to avoid the trap of spending the extra money without improving efficiency.

“We’ve got to think fundamentally about how our care is delivered and how our teams of frontline staff work,” said Mr Stevens.

“Nowhere is that more apparent than in the role of community health services.”

He added: “I think it’s pretty obvious that the opportunity to redesign those services from patients point of view, to ensure that clinical teams work in different ways is immense.”

The statistics emerged from research for NHS Improvement by Lord Carter of Coles, published in May. The report also detailed high levels of bullying and harassment among staff.

Mr Stevens said tackling “severe workforce questions” was imperative for improving patient care.

“Part of that is making coming to work less frustrating for our frontline staff,” he said, adding: “That is a massive efficiency opportunity.”

Announced by the Prime Minister in June in the lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, the £20 billion package represents a 3.4 per cent-a-year increase for five years.

The commitment forms part of a new 10-year plan on the future direction the health service, details of which are expected to be published before Christmas.

The funding announcement provoked controversy at the time, as the Government promised it would be funded in part by a “Brexit dividend”, however ministers have since suggested the uplift will require tax rises such as a raid on pension pots.

“Frankly this is a nice problem to have,” said Mr Stevens. “If you are from the police service or a headteacher or from local authorities, you are looking on with some jealousy at the funding the national health service now has on offer over the next five years.”

Adding that while the increase is not “high sugar territory”, he said it amounted to a concrete improvement and cautioned that “the rest of the country is looking to the NHS to ensure this money is invested very wisely”.

While NHS funding was not cut after David Cameron came to power in 2010, it did not kept up with the increase in patient demand for services, fuelled in part by an ageing population.

Meanwhile further pressure has been heaped on GP surgeries and hospitals by severe cuts to funding for councils, who are responsible for social care.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital and community trust leaders, said the £20 billion would “barely” improve performance to the level expected by patients.

“It is certainly true that the funding settlement for the NHS announced by the prime minister during the summer was welcome, and generous when compared with spending on other parts of the public sector,” he said.

“But it’s important to remember the exceptional pressures faced by the health service.

“The increases in demand we are seeing for treatment, year on year, have coincided with the longest and deepest spending squeeze in the history of the NHS, exacerbated by cuts to wider public services notably in public health and social care.