One of the bosses at Southampton General Hospital insists the staff shortage is under control.
Judy Gillow, director of nursing at the hospital, has pointed to the instant success of a large-scale recruitment drive.
Inspectors had expressed concerns that a stretched workforce was putting the quality of patient care at risk. Hospital chiefs were subsequently invited to the city council to explain the situation.
Mrs Gillow told councillors on Southampton City Council’s Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee that employing more nurses has been their number-one priority for some time.
Southampton General Hospital was among 17 hospitals criticised by the Care Quality Commission over staffing levels, a problem labelled a “moderate concern”.
The commission’s report discovered some patients were left alone for long periods of time, leaving them more vulnerable to falls.
Patients were left unsupervised because of a shortage of nurses. The hospital was also found to rely on agency staff, to the detriment of continuity care.
Addressing the council panel, Mrs Gillow admitted it was disappointing to learn of the inspectors’ concerns. She believes they caught the hospital on a bad day, a day when there was “significant operational pressure” and a Black Alert in place.
An action plan had been introduced to solve staffing levels before October’s inspection, which has led to an additional 110 nurses added to the workforce in the last 12 months. The trust now employs 3,346 nurses.
Councillors were informed that the vacancy rate stood at 9%, with a target to reduce the figure to 5% by summer and to 2.5% by autumn.