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Admin burden driving nurses away from profession – survey

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Almost half (45 per cent) of all NHS nurses surveyed by the RCNi (Royal College of Nursing’s Information and Learning subsidiary) and SPS have said the administrative burden is the primary reason for wanting to leave their jobs. 

These non-clinical tasks include ordering transport, responding to complaints and answering general enquiries – none of which requires a highly trained nurse and can be managed using digital solutions such as communication platforms and virtual assistants.

Results showed that two-fifths (42 per cent) of all nurses spend at least half of their week on these actions.

This equates to £61 million in annual spend for a mid-sized trust or £13 billion across the entire NHS.

The survey also showed:

  • Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) spend 20 hours on clinical administration such as booking and rescheduling appointments rather than treating patients – tasks that can be completed using booking administration services and patient engagement platforms.
  • While pay was also a factor, only 9 per cent of the 2,797 respondents said it was the primary reason for leaving. It was ranked the fourth most common reason, behind admin, other workload pressures and stress.
  • All surveyed nurses work unpaid overtime, with 64 per cent working a minimum of 6 additional hours and 18 per cent working over 11 hours every week.
  • Four-fifths (78 per cent) admitted that they often make administrative errors in their working day.

In response to the news, Ryan Reed, Digital Transformation Expert, SPS, said: “While there is no silver bullet, proven solutions such as digital tools and outsourcing can reduce the admin burden on clinical staff in a matter of weeks. And importantly release their time to care for patients.

“We’re on the brink of a nursing crisis. However, with solutions readily available, we must act now. Especially given that recent evidence from the RCN showed that 47 per cent of nurses want to leave the profession.”

SPS has produced a report that includes the survey results and created an online savings calculator, which uses the data to calculate the annual spend on administration and cash-releasing savings for NHS trusts.

Dawn Dowding, Co-Chair, Digital Nursing Forum, RCN, said: “The survey shines a light on a critical issue facing the nursing profession.

“The amount of non-clinical work is unprecedented, and the NHS can’t afford to lose anymore nurses.

“With the increased burden on administration it is time that we implemented digital systems that can help nurses work more efficiently.

“However, we must recognise that technology is a tool that will only achieve these aims if it is developed with nurses, so that it supports their work.

“Unfortunately clinical systems have been implemented by organisations where nurses have not been involved in the procurement, design or implementation process and they end up making the situation worse.”

Ryan Reed added: “Our hope is that the new Labour government will help trusts tackle these issues head-on for the sake of our nurses, the NHS and ultimately, for patients.”

The survey data was collated and analysed at the beginning of 2024 with full details outlined in the SPS report, ‘Are we on the brink of a nursing crisis?’, published in June.

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