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Year starts with multiple warnings of staff shortages

Serious concerns over staffing levels and patient safety were raised last week at four hospitals in different parts of the country – with the new year less than 10 days old.


A report on Wexham Park Hospital said Care quality Commission inspectors found evidence of regular short staffing on “almost all wards” and a culture where “staff did not always feel they could raise concerns”.

The report, published on Wednesday, said Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust must make urgent improvements at the hospital in Slough.

Inspectors concluded the trust was more focused on “responding to… targets” than “ensuring that overall patient experiences were positive”.

Wexham Park Hospital

Wexham Park Hospital

Despite a previous CQC warning in May, almost all the wards inspected were found to be regularly short staffed. Staff did not always feel they could raise concerns, with a number expressing concerns about bullying and harassment, the CQC said.

The trust said it had invested over £2m in new staff in the last 12 months and would “continue to actively recruit and use temporary staff where necessary”.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was criticised in a separate CQC report on Wednesday for “unacceptable” staff shortages and examples of poor nursing care.

Autumn inspections found shortages across a number of wards and departments, particularly accident and emergency. When they reviewed the A&E duty rota for one four-week period they found “shortfalls in nursing staff every day”.

Chief nurse Juliette Greenwood said the trust was making a huge effort to address staffing issues. When CQC inspectors visited there were 118 vacant posts, but the trust had since recruited 58 nurses and A&E was now “fully recruited”, she said.

Juliette Greenwood

Juliette Greenwood, Bradford chief nurse

Also on Wednesday, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust declared a “major incident” at its Royal Victoria Hospital due to a backlog of A&E patients. At one stage, 42 people were waiting on trolleys.

Hospital porter Pat Neeson told the BBC he was “fed up watching our nurses cry” as a result of longstanding A&E pressures.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, an internal report revealed significant safety concerns in theatres at Alder Hey Children’s Foundation Trust.

Written by director of nursing Gill Core, the report highlighted safety issues resulting from a “high pressure, time constrained environment” that had existed for a “significant period of time”.

It said: “Theatre staff are constantly changing duties, covering theatres they have limited expertise in and frequently working beyond duty times, often in lengthy list overruns.”

The trust said it had reorganised staffing and promoted incident reporting since the report was written in December.


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Readers' comments (8)

  • I agree wards should have more staff it should be made that a nurse looks after a set number of patients and if they are short staffed they do not take any more patients onto the wards this would make those in the glass houses get there bums in
    to gear

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  • is the photo a model from a soap? I have never seen a nurse or doctor look so composed or immaculate in what appears to be an emergency situation.

    Do they also use models in the telegraph? the pictures do not seem to reflect reality?

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  • The issue of staff shortage is wide spread in nursing. Those who are on duty could be asked to cover the missing roles; it means compromising patient safety, while one is thinking meeting targets. One has to take into consideration of health and well-being of staff ; according to Health and Safety Act. There should be ways to protect Staff Nurse- in this case they are the vulnerable ones. For instance, rejecting or not being helpful could have consequences for the nurse on duty...

    However, a balance has to be achieved in these circumstances.

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  • Everyone works hard but it's registered nurses who are under most stress. It is they after all who are accountable if something goes wrong and who will support the registered nurse on duty if something does go wrong? The registered nurse is told reporting concerns around staffing and skill mix are welcome. The reality is when he does the organisation reacts punitively. If the organisation continues "to actively recruit and use temporary staff where necessary" is it any wonder when staff adopt a work ethic of "If you cannae beat them, join them."

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  • Every Christmas the NHS goes through the same crisis and it will get worse each year. Maybe one should look into the main cause of the staff shortage and causing staff to overwork. During this period, more staff are either having hoildays or off sick with seasonal sickness then any other time. Therefore, this is the time we should have more staff to be on duty. It does not meant that employing more staff in the new year will solve the problem when the next winter comes.

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  • Staffing and skill mix are year round issues. They don't just appear once a year like Father Christmas. If the organisation would recruit more permanent full-time Nurses, instead of relying on Santa's little helpers, the service would not be in such a sorry state.

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  • Everyone is tired of the NHS problem of staff shortage. The government and the Trust should get together to find the aswer to that. In the summer, I was a patient at the A&E department as I needed stitching to my injury. There were a large number of nursing staff around but I still had to wait for 2 hours before I was seen by a doctor who then referred me to have an xray. I then waited for a further hour before I had my wound sutured. Surely, there must be a better way to cut the waiting time?

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  • We in the Private Sector Nursing Homes have suffered this problem for many years one of our answers is to import Nurses from Asia this action has been regularly condemned by Unison but it is amazing how many of these Nurses now work in the NHS. I am not complaining as we originally recruited most of the British Nurses from the NHS. There is still a problem , one solution is for the Nursing Home Sector to train experienced Carers up to Speciality Nurses (like we do for Midwives) what does the Nursing Fraternity think about this idea ?

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