Being somewhat optically challenged at present (need new glasses!) I have nonetheless managed to sort some old papers. I came across a more recent news item from the Nursing Times 8 September, p.3 by Sally Gainsbury. What use is late news?
I raise this now because public sector health finance provides the impetus, so this subject is perpetual motion. It is also reported ongoing by HSJ. I refer to this not to take sides, but to acknowledge that politically there is a need to make decisions and find the required £20bn efficiency savings. The news line reads:
The item focuses on a report for the DoH produced by McKinsey management consultants. The government has distanced itself from the reports recommendations, but the need for action remains. The Nursing Times news item includes two clocks (with the total nursing time available depicted as 1 hour) that break down the time spent on patients on general medical wards and community wards. While this is just one aspect of a report of more than 100 pages, the findings are of great interest. ...
GENERAL WARD: 15 mins Physical care; 10 mins Psychosocial care; 35 mins non-patient care.
COMMUNITY NURSES: 17 mins Antenatal activities; 13 mins Postnatal; 27 mins npc; 3 mins other and classes.
I have not worked on a general or mental health ward for a long time, but I was surprised to see the time spent on patient being less on the wards than the community - 25 minutes v. 30 minutes. There are challenges in comparing different clinical areas, but I would have thought travel, administration - including paper and e-record data entry would impinge much more on community. On mental health wards there has been an effort to free nurses to nurse - with protected time? So pause for thought there - but only for a moment....
Thinking about community - providers will no doubt vary in the way (district) nursing teams are organized, the location of their bases and how that impacts average journey times. Districts also vary in the way the population is distributed, especially those neighbourhoods were social and economic deprivation is higher and need may be increased.
This is why access to GIS (geographical information systems) by team managers and members is crucial and should not just be some esoteric academic and intelligence artifact. While we should not under estimate the potential use of GIS to inform inpatient care, it is community services that are best placed to benefit from improved intelligence, planning and decisions.
There is a long thread here and the politicians of all parties know it leads into the forest ....
For example, much can be read in a single word "... McKinsey found that only 15 minutes was on the "physical care" of patients while the remaining 10 minutes went on "psychosocial" care, such as talking to patients." I hope that 'only' does not suggest that talking to patients is 2nd best, even though basic nursing care is the factor in the news regarding public perception of the quality of nursing care. This is a constant problem as we move to outcomes. Are we going to have patients saying - "The physical care was excellent, but I felt like I was in a religious retreat. Nobody hardly spoke, explained anything." Patient education, self care, staying well, the effective use of medication and treatment ... is predicated on psychosocial engagement.
What is also very troubling is that cost savings might mean detrimental changes in the skill-mix; the ratio of qualified to health care assistant staff. Some of the best 'natural' nurses I have worked with and work with today are dedicated HCAs. They have a major role and contribution to make, but if safety gains are to be maintained and improved upon then 'safe' skill-mix is critical.
Given the present demographic, 'nurses' are not new to cuts. In the public sector cuts are part of that perpetual motion I mentioned at the start. What frustrates is working on the holistic care mosaic to produce something that is safe, effective, quality care; then as we come to finally add the threads - clinical supervision, PDP, health IT, outcome measures, public engagement we have to unravel and start again.
Image source used with permission and thanks: D L Ennis. Visual Thoughts http://dlennis.wordpress.com/