The “mood is lifting” among stressed-out emergency care nurses at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, who found themselves embroiled in a major incident earlier this year, a senior nurse has claimed in an interview with Nursing Times.
Brenda Creaney, director of nursing at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, admitted staff morale had taken a battering in recent months.
The hospital’s emergency care arrangements are currently under review in the light of the major incident in January, with patients waiting on trolleys and reports of nurses in tears.
“We have got a way to go but I do feel the mood is lifting”
But Ms Creaney said ongoing efforts to improve staffing levels and support were having an impact. “January was very difficult for the nurses,” she told Nursing Times. “We have got a way to go but I do feel the mood is lifting.”
She said efforts to recruit more staff were already under way before winter pressures hit, but recent negative media coverage had deterred nurses from taking up jobs.
“It has definitely put off some of the nurses we hired. Some people we offered jobs to before Christmas did not take up those jobs,” she said. “But the fact is Belfast is still a very good place to work.”
The hospital announced this month that it was recruiting 40 extra nurses, with 25 earmarked for its 60-bed acute medical unit (AMU) and 15 for A&E. The trust has also promoted two members of existing staff to senior nursing roles – one in A&E and one in the AMU, both starting on 1 April.
“We have had difficulties and because of those difficulties various issues have come to light,” said Ms Creaney. For example, one of the issues that had been picked up was around “consistency in communication” and there was now an emphasis on “better team briefings”, she said.
The trust had also focused on improving support for nurses, including running “staff drop-in clinics” day and night where they could speak to senior nurses, occupational health staff or managers.
“It will take a while to get over this,” she added. “But the ward sisters are now saying to me they really appreciate the support and feel supported. Would every single one of our 100 nurses say that? No. But certainly I would say there has been a perceptible change in mood.”
However, fresh concerns were raised about the situation in A&E last week. The BBC reported on Wednesday that two patients waited on trollies for more than 29 hours.