Scottish Government
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Quality Strategy gives more time to care

Every health board in Scotland is to introduce a scheme to free up more nurses' time for direct patient care, thanks to the NHS Quality Strategy, just published.

The Releasing Time to Care (RTC) initiative will now be rolled out to all health boards.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon today visited a cardiac ward at Hairmyres Hospital in Lanarkshire which is using RTC.

The visit coincided with the publication of the Quality Strategy, which sets out the actions which will be taken to improve the quality of NHS healthcare.

The strategy seeks to improve the quality of care patients receive from the NHS, recognising that the patient's experience of the NHS is about more than speedy treatment - it is the quality of care they get that matters most to them.

The Quality Strategy will see the quality of care provided by the NHS measured for the first time through patients' experience and the information used to drive up standards.

RTC is an example of one of the ways in which the NHS is improving under the Quality Strategy. It focuses on improving ward processes and environment to help nurses spend more time on patient care, thereby improving safety, efficiency and quality.

Pilot sites have shown an increase in time spent on direct patient care by up to 40 per cent, as well as improved leadership, efficiency and staff morale.

NHS Lanarkshire, which is using RTC in 44 clinical areas, has reported a 3.9 per cent drop in sickness absence and an estimated 8776 hours released back to patient care on the wards using the project.

On the cardiac ward, improvements include:

  • Hand hygiene compliance increased from 57 per cent to 100 per cent
  • A 24 per cent increase on compliance with food, fluid and nutrition standards
  • A reduction in the average length of patient stay by 0.88 days

Ms Sturgeon said: "This innovative programme is improving patient and staff experience, as well as improving efficiency and productivity.

"It is exactly the kind of thing that I want to see more of as the Quality Strategy develops.

"The Quality Strategy will put patients at the heart of everything the NHS does and give people a new confidence in the health service.

"All too often I hear people say of their dealings with the NHS that the clinical care was good, but that the food or communication could have been better or that they didn't feel they were treated with enough dignity and respect.

"The task facing us all is to ensure the way patients are treated becomes as important to everyone delivering healthcare as how quickly they are treated. The Quality Strategy will enable us to achieve this.

"We have always had some genuinely excellent care in the NHS. The strategy aims to ensure this happens for every person, every time. In time, our aim is to make Scotland a world leader in delivering highest quality healthcare."

A Quality Alliance, which will include senior representatives from stakeholder groups, will be set up to monitor progress towards the three ambitions set out in the Quality Strategy. These are developing an NHS which is safe, clinically effective and person-centred.

Linda King, senior charge nurse in the cardiac ward at Hairmyres, said: "Starting this project was fairly daunting at first to identify how we could reduce wasted time in order to increase the time we spend with patients.

"This is about improving clinical care through a well-organised ward. Our motto in here is "a place for everything and everything in its place". By working to this we know exactly where to find our equipment and supplies, and knowing if they are not in their place then they are in use. It's quite simple really but this is saving a significant amount of staff time searching for things.

"The time we have been able to release has allowed us to improve quality and patient safety by initiatives such as hand hygiene compliance and having early warning systems for patients who have the potential to become seriously unwell. We are able to provide evidence of improvements from before the start of the project to now.

"We are committed to this way of working which is driving us to continually improve."

RTC is currently running in eight health boards in Scotland and is now being extended to every board.

Related Information

The Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHSScotland

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