Hospital ward rounds 'neglected'

Hospital staff are being stretched so thin that critical ward rounds are being neglected, leading clinicians have said.

Fewer members of staff, tighter budgets and a rising tide of admissions have led to a deterioration of ward rounds in hospitals, said the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The quality of rounds must improve to ensure that patients are seen as people and not conditions, they said.

Ward rounds are "critical" to patient care and should not be curtailed by hospital managers, they added.

The Colleges said there has been a gradual erosion of "good ward rounds" and have launched new guidance to ensure that there is a standard of practice across all hospitals.

Dr Mark Temple, acute care fellow at the RCP's medical workforce unit, said: "Hospitals are under more pressure now than they have been in a very long time. There are huge pressures in terms of staffing, in terms of a rising tide of inpatients and emergency admissions and particularly the financial constraints on the NHS at the moment.

"There is a danger that busy clinical staff have become too task-orientated and less patient-orientated in relation to the tasks that they are doing.

"If you are a manager in a distant part of the hospital you may see a ward round as something that could be shortened and may not be able to measure the value of it compared to activity going through an outpatient department."

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "Ward rounds are essential to the care of patients in our hospitals - and a number one priority for the Government. That's why the Prime Minister announced support for nurses to spend more time on ward rounds earlier this year.

"NHS staff are at their best, and delivering their best, when they are actually with patients - not with paperwork."