Call to “lock in” bureaucracy busting measures

A NEW drive to empower frontline NHS staff by reducing unnecessary bureaucracy and “locking in positive change” seen during the Covid-19 pandemic has been announced by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

Speaking at the recent NHS Confederation’s NHS Reset Conference, Hancock announced publication of a new Government report on Busting bureaucracy

It sets out a strategy intended to streamline processes and reduce bureaucracy, identifying eight priority areas for action to save staff time and allow them to concentrate more on direct patient care. These include rethinking medical staff appraisals by putting an end to lengthy paperwork and ensuring a more meaningful assessment of professional development and progress.

The report also calls for reform to professional regulation enabling the General Medical Council to adopt more flexible routes to registration while still assuring standards of knowledge, experience and skill. It cites the experience of specialist doctors, including GPs, from outside the UK who want to work in the NHS, having to submitting up to 1,000 pages of evidence to support an application.

Government also wants to reduce duplicative or repetitive data requests and build on the approach to effective data sharing across the system seen during the COVID-19 response. NHSX and Department of Health and Social Care are expected to launch a data strategy in the coming months.

The report states that the actions outlined will require commitment from all levels of the system and will be achieved through a mixture of digital, behavioural and legislative change, with bureaucracy reduction continuing to be a central strand of health and care reform.

The new bureaucracy-busting drive follows a call for evidence over the summer from frontline health and care staff, through which over 600 respondents identified 1,000 examples of excess bureaucracy that they face in their day-to-day jobs. A wide range of other stakeholders contributed, including professional bodies, commissioners, academics and providers.

In his speech to the NHS Confederation conference, 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.

"Some bureaucracy is essential for a safe, well-functioning health and care system… However, approximately a third of a community-based clinician’s time is spent on administration and patient coordination and over half of doctors report that at least one hour of their work each day could be carried out by non-clinical staff.

"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."

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