Nurses are “drowning in a sea of paperwork” with more than one-sixth of the working week taken up doing non-essential paperwork, a survey suggests.
The Royal College of Nursing poll of 6,000 nurses found 17.3% of their hours were spent on tasks such as filing, photocopying and ordering supplies.
Most reported the amount of paperwork was getting worse and was now stopping them providing direct patient care.
The government has said it wants to reduce bureaucracy by a third.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already announced a review of bureaucracy, which is being carried out by the NHS Confederation and is due to report back in the coming months.
‘Too much duplication’
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said: “We recognise very much the survey and we are concerned about it. I think it’s critical that we make sure our staff have got the maximum amount of time to be with our patients.
“We’re still doing far too much on paper, far too much duplication and it really is taking away the time nurses could have with patients.”
The union said its survey showed a culture of “ticking boxes” had developed.
The survey, which is being released on the eve of the start of the RCN’s annual conference on Monday, also found more than a quarter of nurses said their workplace did not have a ward clerk or administrative assistant to help with clerical duties.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: “These figures prove what a shocking amount of a nurse’s time is being wasted on unnecessary paperwork and bureaucracy.
“Yes, some paperwork is essential and nurses will continue to do this, but patients want their nurses by their bedside, not ticking boxes.”
The union’s Janet Davies said: “Ordering supplies and ordering food is a terrible waste of a nurse’s salary and nursing skills when actually you could have an admin assistant doing that routine work.”
District nurse Irene Macpherson, from Inverkip, Renfrewshire, said: “I am sick to the back teeth of demands on my time, and that of my staff, which mean that other staff in the organisation can tick a box to say they are doing their jobs.
“We now have to fill out an assessment page which doesn’t reflect the work that the nurses do. For example, we have to draw maps of the number of steps or actions we take to find a piece of equipment and then work out a quicker way of doing it, by better organising our work area.”
Labour says the current government should take the blame for the nurses’ increased workload.
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: “David Cameron is cutting the NHS front line and wasting billions on a chaotic re-organisation, leaving hospitals to operate without enough staff.
“Now form-filling is taking nurses away from their patients for longer and longer.”