New BTS survey reveals respiratory nurses feel they lack sufficient patient contact time

1st September 2017

A new study by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) has highlighted staffing issues in respiratory nursing teams across the NHS, with nurses reporting they feel unable to spend sufficient time with patients, and are working extra unpaid hours.

Education for Health collaborated on the production of the survey, which gathered more than 600 responses from individual respiratory nurses and NHS employers. The study was commissioned to show the current state of the respiratory nurse specialty in the NHS, with broader aims including informing future workforce planning and ensuring the long-term provision of quality patient care.

One key finding raises concerns about the efficacy of recruitment, retention and succession-planning initiatives. Within the next decade, nearly half of the nurses surveyed plan to, or will be eligible for, retirement – and a further 2% plan to leave the profession within the next five years. The study authors have said that as retiring nurses are often working at a senior level, there is an urgent need to identify qualified replacements.

Over a quarter of the nurses surveyed felt that they were unable to have sufficient time with patients, and over 90% reported working additional hours each week; nearly three quarters stated that they worked an extra six hours per week. The main areas of care that respiratory nurses felt they were not able to fully provide due to time constraints were patient education and support for patient self-management, seen as vital to health outcomes across a range of conditions, including asthma and COPD.

Education for Health Education Lead for Asthma and Allergy, Viv Marsh, said:

“The results of this survey sadden but do not surprise me, they are a reflection of the current workforce issues within the NHS.

“Time to care is the single biggest barrier to ensuring excellent standards of healthcare for our patients.

“Patient education and support for self-management are vital elements of healthcare, particularly in long-term conditions, but the problem is that they are also extremely time consuming; sadly even the most experienced and well trained nurses cannot do their best without enough time.

“BTS commissioned this survey to map out the current state of the respiratory nurse specialty in the NHS, to help inform future workforce plans and ensure the long-term provision of quality patient care. Education for Health hope it will now be used to inform NHS commissioning.”

More information

Click here to read the full study, which has been published in the BMJ Open Respiratory Research.

To read the British Thoracic Society press release, please click here.

View Education for Health respiratory education and training here.