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Respiratory nurses not spending enough time with patients – and half planning to retire in next decade

One in four NHS respiratory nursing teams say they are unable to spend enough time with patients, with a majority reporting working extra unpaid hours, a new study reveals.
bts

One in four NHS respiratory nursing teams say they are unable to spend enough time with patients, with a majority reporting working extra unpaid hours, a new study reveals.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) study also found more than half of the current respiratory nurse workforce are planning to retire, or are eligible to do so, within the next decade.

The findings have prompted calls from the society to future-proof the respiratory nurse role through effective recruitment, retention and succession planning.

The study, published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research , analysed more than 600 responses to two different online surveys one for individual respiratory nurses and the other for NHS employers.

Misunderstood role

Key findings include:

One in four NHS respiratory nursing teams say they are unable to spend enough time with patients, with a majority reporting working extra unpaid hours, a new study reveals.

bts
The role of respiratory nurses can be poorly understood in the NHS.
 Picture: Charles Milligan

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) study also found more than half of the current respiratory nurse workforce are planning to retire, or are eligible to do so, within the next decade.

The findings have prompted calls from the society to future-proof the respiratory nurse role through effective recruitment, retention and succession planning.

The study, published in BMJ Open Respiratory Research, analysed more than 600 responses to two different online surveys – one for individual respiratory nurses and the other for NHS employers.

Misunderstood role

Key findings include:

  • Only half of the nurses (53.6%) reported they were able to spend as much time with their patients as needed – and more than a quarter (25.3%) felt they were unable to have sufficient patient contact.
  • More than nine in 10 nurses (91%) reported working additional hours each week above what was contracted, with nearly three quarters (72%) stating they worked an extra six hours a week.
  • Within the next decade, 48.1% of nurses surveyed plan to retire or will be eligible for it, and 1.8% plan to leave nursing in the next five years. Retiring nurses are often working at a senior level and leading services, which raises a significant need to identify suitably qualified staff to replace them.
  • Some 77% of nurses felt supported by clinical colleagues and line managers (62.2%). The vast majority (93.1%) felt able to attend meetings and study days, with 78% agreeing that training and education opportunities were available to access.

The BTS says the study suggests the role of a respiratory nurse can be ‘poorly understood’ in the NHS and is under threat – despite a range of evidence showing that the work of respiratory nursing can lead to savings and efficiencies, with better outcomes for patients, and can help to bridge gaps in the system to provide more seamless care.

Time and resources

Qualitative comments in the survey suggest the main areas of care respiratory nurses do not feel able to fully provide due to time constraints are patient education and support for patient self-management – both vital to health outcomes across a range of conditions including asthma and COPD. Lack of administrative support was identified as limiting respiratory nurses’ ability to spend more time with patients.

Janelle Yorke, global leader in respiratory research at the University of Manchester and chair of the BTS nursing advisory group, said: 'Our survey study highlights how we must ensure that nurses in the specialty are given sufficient time and resources to provide the best care for patients. One clear task is to invest in administrative support to alleviate some of the strain on nursing teams, freeing up more time for patient contact. This would enable a more efficient and cost-effective use of specialist nursing skills.

'We also need to future-proof the profession by recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of nurses, given that half plan to retire over the next decade.'


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