Nurses Accused Of Putting Paperwork Before Care

Patients are being put at risk by appalling conditions on hospital wards, a senior consultant says today in the British Medical Journal. Katherine Teale, a consultant anaesthetist at Hope hospital in Salford, Greater Manchester, accuses some nurses of neglecting basic care in favour of paperwork. Doctors are accused of not spending enough time on wards.

The Patients Association joined the attack, accusing nurses of failing to attend to basic care, while nurses defended themselves, saying they are under-funded.

Ms Teale says people forget about the success of their operations because they feel so neglected afterwards. The top three reasons for delays in patients being discharged – pressure sores, hospital-acquired infections and medication errors – could be prevented if nurses and doctors provided better ward care.

“It’s madness to spend thousands of pounds on fancy surgery if the patients are allowed to develop avoidable complications,” Ms Teale writes. “The crisis on many wards is the result of lack of trained staff, lack of continuity of care, and poor leadership.”

Government reforms have left ward care to less experienced healthcare assistants, Ms Teale claims. “There seems to be an invisible barrier between the nursing station and the patient areas. Nurses only cross this to do a specific task and then scurry back to the paperwork.”

She recalls cases of elderly patients with bed sores and another whose weight fell by 6%. “It’s these experiences, and not the skillful surgery, patients remember and tell their friends about. And it’s these that make patients, especially elderly patients, dread being in hospital.”

She also blames doctors and consultants who are “rarely on the ward” for losing track of their patients’ care.

Vanessa Bourne, of the Patients Association, said: “Nurses are failing to be an advocate for their patients. People complain but no one is listening to them.”

Howard Catton, head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said Department of Health research showed that most patients were happy with the care they received, but nurses were stretched, particularly with the financial problems the NHS was facing. “There is a very good business case for improving the staffing of wards – lives could be saved.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said that 92% of patients said their care was good or better. “We do not recognise this picture of the NHS … However, improvements can be made.”