The Care Quality Commission is to undertake an “urgent review” of safety at Stafford Hospital, after warnings that services are at risk due to problems recruiting and retaining nursing staff.
The CQC agreed to hold the review following a request for assistance from the trust special administrators (TSAs) who are currently running Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
In a statement the trust special administrators said: “The fragility of the trust’s services, due to staff recruitment and retention, has been a constant and well documented issue which first emerged prior to the appointment of the TSAs.
“Since the start of the TSA process in April 2013, the TSAs have been working with [healthcare regulator] Monitor and local providers to address the issue. However it has now become a significant challenge.
“In such circumstances it is good NHS practice to ensure that all other relevant bodies, such as the CQC, are informed appropriately of any such issues which may affect the provision of safe patient services.”
“The fragility of the trust’s services, due to staff recruitment and retention, has been a constant and well documented issue”
The administrators said they expected the CQC to conduct a focused inspection and report findings “as soon as is possible”, so they could act accordingly to ensure patient safety.
In a statement, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said the regulator had been approached about the review by a group of relevant organisations including the TSAs. These include Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority and University Hospitals North Staffordshire Trust.
He said the regulator was currently planning the inspection and recruiting appropriate specialist advisers.
A spokesman for Monitor said: “The safety of patients is the absolute priority and we support the TSAs’ decision to ask the CQC to carry out an inspection.”
In February it was revealed that Mid Staffordshire was considering further restrictions to accident and emergency opening hours at Stafford Hospital due to a shortage of nurses.
Trust chief executive Maggie Oldham said at the time that the trust did not have enough experienced nurses because of the “reputation of Mid Staffs” and “uncertainty about the future”.
The trust is due to be dissolved by the end of 2014, with its services transferred to either University Hospitals of North Staffordshire Trust or Royal Wolverhampton Hospital Trust.