Chris Lancelot - The CQC has questions to answer, not the nurses

In a blaze of media attention the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has lambasted nurses in NHS hospitals for paying more attention to paperwork than the elderly patients they are meant to be looking after.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford
The GP Record, by Fran Orford

So whose fault is that? CQC chairwoman Dame Jo Williams said: 'Often what is needed is kindness and compassion, which costs nothing.'

As an attitude, kindness and compassion are free: but the time spent expressing them certainly isn't. Kindness takes time - lots of it - to do properly, whether it is comforting a dying man or cleaning up yet again after an incontinent patient. But if the form-filling leaves no time for kindness and compassion (and in some places clearly it doesn't), that's a problem for hospital management rather than the nurses.

Be warned - primary care is going the same way. Twenty years ago I spent 10% of my time on paperwork: now it's nearer 50%. We GPs have to generate QOF and quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) data; record significant events; keep our PDPs up to date; attend countless meetings; read reams of spreadsheets; monitor our prescribing and referrals and hit Choose and Book targets - among many others. And that's before we've even seen the patients.

Clearly, some paperwork is necessary, such as writing referral letters, but the majority of current practice administration is about ticking boxes for claims, quality and probity purposes, or else is wasted in trying to surmount the colossal inefficiencies which NHS management has built into our working environment.

To add insult to injury, CQC registration is on the horizon - that same CQC which was censuring hospital nurses. That's going to make an even bigger hole in our working day. Time set aside for kindness and compassion, CQC? You must be joking.

Except that it isn't a joke. Kindness and compassion should be central to the NHS, yet increasingly, front-line workers' time is wasted through being commandeered inappropriately. Yet how typical of an NHS organisation to blame front-line staff when it is management's fault that they are so overburdened. As the army mantra goes: 'There is no such thing as a bad soldier - just bad officers.' CQC, take note.

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