Urgent care staffing concerns boil over into transparency row
NHS commissioners have been criticised for failing to answer questions about patient safety and staffing issues at an urgent care centre in Loughborough.
The Royal College of Nursing submitted a series of questions under the Freedom of Information Act after its members raised concerns about staffing levels at the new facility at Loughborough Hospital.
According to the RCN, the transfer of services from a walk-in centre in the middle of Loughborough to the new facility resulted in the loss of the equivalent of 7.3 full-time nursing posts out of 22 and the resignation of a further three nurses.
“We are concerned that staffing levels at the centre are consequently too low for nurses to be able to deliver a consistently good standard of care to patients and that the service is persistently relying on agency nurses to make up the numbers,” said the union.
The FOI request, which asked for information about agency shifts, waiting times and patient complaints, was initially made to Central Nottinghamshire Clinical Services, which runs the centre.
But it was then passed on to the West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, which promised to respond but subsequently failed to meet the FOI deadline of replying within 20 working days.
“It is unacceptable that we have not had a definitive reply from a publicly-accountable body to a number of legitimate questions based on genuinely-held concerns,” said Dr Sheila Marriot, director of the RCN in the East Midlands.
In a statement, West Leicestershire CCG managing director Toby Sanders said; “We have a robust system in place to ensure that our FOI responses are complete and sent within the required timeframe.
“However it appears that we have not fulfilled our obligations on this occasion and we apologise for the delay,” he said. “We will rectify this immediately and forward our response at the first opportunity.”
In addition, he said he would like to “offer reassurance” that the CCG was “fully committed” to openness and transparency.
Greater NHS transparency was a centre point of the government’s response to the Francis report last month. Among the measures announced was guidance requiring hospital trusts to publish ward staffing levels each month.
Mr Sanders added: “I can confirm that recruitment for permanent clinical staff at the urgent care centre in Loughborough is now almost complete. We have the right skills mix in place to provide the correct treatment for patients with urgent care needs.”
Nursing Times understands the RCN has now received the information.
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