Evaluating the Productive Ward at an acute NHS trust: experiences and implications of releasing time to care

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Abstract

Aims and objectives

To demonstrate how a national programme aimed to increase the amount of direct time nurses spend with patients', impacts on both staff and patient experience.

Background

The Productive Ward is an improvement programme developed by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement (2007, http://www.institute.nhs.uk/quality_and_value/productivity_series/productive_ward.html) which aims to enable nurses to work more efficiently by reviewing process and practice, thus releasing more time to spend on direct patient care. However, there is little empirical published research around the programme, particularly concerning impact, sustainability and the patient perspective.

Design

This manuscript presents the findings from qualitative interviews involving both staff and patients.

Methods

Semi-structured one-to-one interviews were conducted with patients (n = 8) and staff (n = 5) on five case study wards. Seven focus groups were held according to staff grade (n = 29).

Results

Despite initial scepticism, most staff embraced the opportunity and demonstrated genuine enthusiasm and energy for the programme. Patients were generally complimentary about their experience as an inpatient, reporting that staff made them feel safe, comfortable and cared for.

Conclusion

Findings showed that the aims of the programme were partially met. The implementation of Productive Ward was associated with significant changes to the ward environment and improvements for staff. The programme equipped staff with skills and knowledge which acted as a primer for subsequent interventions. However, there was a lack of evidence to demonstrate that Productive Ward released time for direct patient care in all areas that implemented the programme.

Relevance to clinical practice

Developing robust performance indicators including a system to capture reinvestment of direct care time would enable frontline staff to demonstrate impact of the programme. Additionally, staff will need to ensure that reorganisation and instability across the NHS do not affect sustainability and viability of the Productive Ward in the long term.

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