A Midlands trust is reviewing its recruitment process and will launch an apprenticeship scheme next year in order to try and rectify concerns about staffing levels identified by hospital inspectors.
The Care Quality Commission has warned Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust that it is failing to meet standards on staffing levels, following inspections in September.
The regulator found there were not always enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet patient needs and told the trust to take action.
Staff told inspectors they were “extremely busy” and that adequate staffing was a “problem at the moment”.
One staff member said: “There is at least one agency staff on duty at each shift. This affects our performance as we have to constantly compensate for them as they are unsure of ward routines.”
The CQC inspectors said this view was “repeated by almost all the staff we spoke with” and the atmosphere on some wards they visited “appeared disordered”.
The accident and emergency department was 14 nurses below its establishment and remained short of trained children’s nurses, while there was a shortage of 28 nurses across the medical directorate.
These shortages had been exacerbated by delays with recruitment procedures, the CQC was told.
The inspectors also identified a high use of agency and bank staff. They found the trust was requesting cover in excess of 200 shifts per week in the medical directorate alone, and that between July and September it was unable to find staff for more than 50 of these shifts a week.
The CQC said it not found the staffing situation had “resulted in any actual harm to patients”, but warned there was a risk this might occur “unless the trust rectified the position”.
In a trust statement, director of nursing and quality Clare Culpin said: “We are working very hard to recruit staff to fill our vacancies against the background of national NHS staff shortages.”
She added: “We are currently reviewing our recruitment processes to make them faster and more effective, have weekly recruitment meetings and are exploring new and innovative forms of recruitment.
“For example, we are launching a healthcare apprenticeships scheme in the New Year to enable people to gain caring experience and national vocational qualifications before going on to work full time on our wards.”
The September visits followed up inspections in March and June, when the trust was found to have failed four standards including that on staffing.
However, the CQC’s latest report showed the trust was now meeting standards on the care and welfare of patients, safeguarding and supporting workers.
For example, nurses were now using daily care plans focused on individual care needs, such as whether patients needed help walking, had breathing problems or needed assistance washing.
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