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Hospital nurses asked to evaluate impact of the ‘productive ward’ scheme

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The main legacy of a national productivity programme aimed at nurses has been to improve the ward environment rather than to increase the amount of time nursing staff spent with patients, suggests a study.

Early findings from the study into the impact of the “productive ward” programme have been shared with Nursing Times by researchers from King’s College London and Southampton University.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, researchers are assessing the impact 10 years on from the Productive Ward: Releasing Time to Care programme, a major initiative to boost nurse productivity.

They said their study – Evaluating the 10 year impact of the productive ward at the clinical microsystem level in English acute trusts – was exploring the story and impact of the “productive ward” initiative in NHS hospital trusts, as well as describing its current use.

The drive was introduced under Labour to increase the proportion of time nurses spent on direct patient care, and improve experience for staff and patients. It was also intended to make structural changes to the use of ward spaces to improve efficiency in terms of time, effort and money.

“Many trusts continue to use specific productive ward tools”

Glenn Robert

The researchers have already sought the views of directors of nursing at all acute trusts in England on the impact of the programme, said Professor Glenn Robert from the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s.

Their responses suggest that productive ward’s biggest impact may have been on improving the ward environment, rather than necessarily increasing the amount of nursing time spent with patients, he said.

In addition, the finings suggested that the majority of trusts had now dropped the programme in its original form, choosing instead to adapt and adopt parts of it, said Professor Robert.

He said: “Although just over half the trusts that ever took up productive ward have now stopped using it in its original modular form, the same proportion told us that the programme had informed their organisation’s quality improvement strategy.

King's College London

Ward scheme ‘increased quality but not productivity’

Glenn Robert

“And many trusts continue to use specific productive ward tools – such as Knowing How We Are Doing, Patient Status at a Glance or Safety Crosses – or have adapted it to fit with an alternative quality improvement approach,” he said.

He added: “The research team will be exploring these legacies in a further survey designed for productive ward leads to complete and will then be recruiting six English acute trusts as case studies for more in-depth study.”

Nurses who have led the implementation of productive ward in an acute trust in England are now being invited by researchers to take part in the further part of the study (see related file below).

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