Nurses need less paperwork and more time with patients, new head of forum says

Sally BrearleyNursing needs to be about patients not paperwork, according to the first chair of the newly-formed Nursing and Care Quality Forum.

Speaking following a public lecture hosted by the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education and the St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, Sally Brearley, who heads the independent body, said it was timely that the quality of nursing care was coming under public scrutiny. “Nursing professionals come into their career primarily to care for patients and support their families,” Ms Brearley said. “Yet all too often their day is fenced off into filling out paperwork, attending meetings, reaching targets and ticking boxes. Only after they have done all this can they do what they came into work to do – look after people.”

The forum’s remit will see it advise the Department of Health on how nurses and other healthcare staff can be better supported to do their job and deliver the kind of compassionate care they joined the NHS to provide. Ms Brearley, a former nurse and physiotherapist, is focused about what the forum will set out to do and equally clear about how that will be achieved. “We will seek out good practice, provide guidance on how it can be implemented nationally and we will work hard to identify ways to remove any barriers that might stand in the way of this happening,” she said.

The views of staff and patients will be key to the forum’s success. “They are the people at the coalface of what we are trying to make more efficient, so their suggestions and comments will be crucial,” Ms Brearley said.

During the lecture, the audience of nursing staff was invited to openly discuss how they felt they could be better supported to do their job. Ms Brearley was heartened to see so many of them agreeing with suggestions the forum intends to make.

“It was clear that the audience knew what worked and what didn’t,” Ms Brearley, who has been involved in patient representation for many years, said. “For example, in relation to regular nurse-led ward rounds, participants told us that where this had been implemented in hospitals it had produced a systematic way of providing regular contact between nurses and their patients at the bedside,” she explained.

“Patients knew they would regularly see a nurse, rather than having to call for them, and that they would be asked, at least hourly, if there was anything else that could be done for them.” But it couldn’t become a check-list approach, Ms Brearley stressed. “As one nurse leader said at the event – it isn’t about paperwork, it’s about the relationship with your patients.”

Professor Fiona Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, said she was really proud that Ms Brearley had given her first public lecture at St George’s and welcomed her appointment. She added: “Sally has worked with the Faculty for more than 10 years as a Fellow in Patient and Public Involvement – she brings the voice of the patient into our teaching and research and challenges professionals out of their comfort zones to think about how the system should work best for patients and their families.”