Empowering frontline healthcare workers by reducing bureaucracy

Empowering frontline healthcare workers by reducing bureaucracy
© iStock-Ivan-balvan

The UK Government has announced a new drive to empower frontline health and care staff by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.

The drive, announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, aims to ‘lock in’ changes that have been made during the pandemic by stripping back excess bureaucracy, allowing frontline staff to spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients.

The new drive follows evidence provided by frontline staff over the summer identifying excess bureaucracy that staff face in their day-to-day jobs. A wide range of other stakeholders in the health and care system also contributed, including professional bodies, commissioners, academics, and providers.

Reducing the red tape in healthcare

The report sets out a strategy to help streamline processes and reduce bureaucracy, identifying eight priority areas for action.

The actions set out in the report include putting an end to lengthy paperwork and ensuring a more meaningful assessment of professional development and progress, modernising outdated and prescriptive professional regulation including the reform of legislation which sees specialist doctors submitting up to 1,000 pages of evidence to support an application, and reducing duplicative or repetitive data requests which can take up a huge amount of frontline staffs time. For the latter, NHSX and the Department of Health and Social Care will launch a data strategy in the coming months to harness the power of data and to build on the approach to effective data sharing across the system seen during the COVID-19 response.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation’s NHS Reset Conference, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Of course, rules and regulations have their place. They can be the cornerstone of safe and high-quality care. But when left unchecked, rules and regulations can outgrow their original purpose – and they can stifle innovation and damage morale.

“Learning from the first peak, in July we set up a call for evidence on reducing bureaucracy in the health and social care systems. And I mean the system as a whole. We engaged with staff on the front line and spoke with dozens of stakeholder groups. The contributions we received have been so vital in lifting that x-ray up to the light and illuminating those daily irritations that make people’s lives harder. Like onerous clearance processes, complicated appraisals, and slow discharges.

“And of course, the changes we need to make don’t always have to be big. In the pandemic, we’ve seen that little things can make a big difference, for instance letting doctors and nurses communicate with patients securely over WhatsApp or providing single logins across multiple different computers. I’m determined that we seize this moment and build on the very best of what we have seen over these past nine months.”

Around one third of a community-based clinician’s time is spent on administration and patient co-ordination.

Adopting COVID-19 changes

Changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic that were implemented to help streamline patient care which will be built on, for example, letting doctors and nurses communicate with patients securely over WhatsApp or providing single logins across multiple different computers.

The report includes eight priorities that will help to reduce bureaucracy in the short to medium term including: the sharing of data and information; system and professional regulation being proportionate and intelligent; improving day-to-day staff processes; legislating to make procurement rules more flexible; giving GPs more time to focus on clinical work; streamlining medical appraisals; digitisation of services; and nurturing a supportive culture at local and national levels.

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