A Care Quality Commission inspection has found “not enough staff to meet patients’ needs” at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.
The regulator said there were 189 vacancies across the trust’s hospital sites, which include Pilgrim Hospital, Lincoln County Hospital and Grantham Hospital.
The report emerged as the trust faces an investigation over its high mortality rates by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh and also found itself at the centre of media attention last week when its former chief executive Gary Walker broke a “gagging order”.
CQC inspectors visited 10 wards at the Lincoln County Hospital on 31 October and 1 November. While the CQC found the hospital was compliant with most standards and gave the trust an overall positive report, it raised specific concerns on staffing.
The report said: “There were times when there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet patients’ needs.”
One patient told inspectors some people had waited half an hour for a call bell to be answered, while a doctor told the CQC there were times when “the nurses struggle”.
Nurses also expressed staffing problems themselves and said there had been occasions when admissions had been postponed due to a lack of beds or specialist nurses. One worker said morale was low, adding: “Everyone is tired because they are trying to do their best.”
The trust had apparently already identified a workforce problem. The CQC report notes the launch of a staffing-level review across in-patient wards by the trust’s director of nursing Eiri Jones. A directive has also been issued by senior managers regarding minimum acceptable staffing levels in advance of the findings of the review.
However, the CQC report marks a significant improvement for the trust, which had three highly critical visits by inspectors in 2012.
Ms Jones said: “This reflects the hard work of all our staff on every ward and department across the trust on a daily basis. We do recognise there is still more to be done in some areas and work is on-going to address issues where they are raised.”