‘Are older people in care homes missing out on quality time with staff because workers are preoccupied with paperwork?’ is the lead in question in an article in a Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)Report.

 Senior Care Nurse Manager, Jeanette Davies
Senior Care Nurse Manager, Jeanette Davies

As a friend would say, ‘Does the Pope wear a funny hat?’

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is one of the leading research organisations in the charity sector.  It is well respected and its studies are valued and sometimes even influence political decisions, if the Westminster wind is in the right direction.

Care homes have to regularly complete more than 100 separate items of paperwork, often duplicating the same information due to poor cooperation and coordination between different agencies who often demand the same information but from a different angle.

Staff felt they were judged more on how well they complete the paperwork than the quality of care they deliver.   More than that, most staff saw no relationship at all between the information demanded and the quality of care in the home.

It sounds a bit like the NHS.  Last year a hospital consultant commented on an article about the lack of compassion in the NHS, saying that his hospital could tick all the regulatory boxes, fill in all the forms, and still be giving poor care.

Paperwork has become an industry in its own right… Instead of helping to build good quality care, it takes away from it.  It keeps managers from residents and modelling good care to staff; it values filling out forms instead of giving good care, it distances staff from their jobs and reduces the sense of vocation (shades of NHS ethos here), and it does not draw key regulators together to establish a shared value system for care.  There’s more.  It also costs money.  When staff have to fill in forms you need other staff to be with residents.

In ‘Could it be dementia?’ I wrote that good care comes from the heart, not from form filling or regulations.

Bureacratic paperwork is like scaffolding erected around the heart of the issue.  It stultifies, deflects focus, achieves little and does not give a real assessment of the quality of care.

One of our managers said, ‘We seek not to allow it to affect quality time with residents but care staff need to evidence all the care provided, offered  and given in the care plan; managers and senior staff need to constantly audit practice, services and environment and evidence this in writing and action plans!’

The comments under the article echo its findings.  Well worth reading:


Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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