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Exclusive: Sussex nursing director pays tribute to 'outstanding' staff

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The director of nursing at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has said the organisation’s outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission is a “testament to staff”.

Amanda Parker described nurses’ elation at the announcement earlier this week, which followed an inspection in December.

“It is testament to them – it is about outstanding staff giving outstanding care,” she told Nursing Times.

The trust is now just one of three in England to achieve the top CQC ranking. Its inspection report noted many instances of exemplary nursing care.

Overall factors contributing to the outstanding rating included a strong focus on safety, care based on patients’ needs and trust-wide learning from incidents and complaints.

St richards hospital chichester

St richards hospital chichester

Ms Parker, who joined the trust in February last year, said the organisation’s success was in part down to its culture and the fact staff “were all signed up to the same vision”.

She said one indicator of the level of staff engagement was the number of people who turned up to meet CQC inspectors at staff forums.

“They were pouring through the doors,” she said. “The number of people who felt they wanted to be able to come and tell the CQC how great they felt their job was astounding.”

Like other trusts, Western Sussex is not without workforce difficulties. While staffing levels were “generally appropriate”, inspectors noted some problems areas, especially band 5 nurses in medicine and staffing in operating theatres.

Ms Parker said there were gaps in staffing and “vacancies across the board”. However, the trust had a strong retention rate because “staff felt valued and looked after”.

“If you are 17, 18, 19 then everything is faster, quicker and different”

Amanda Parker

One initiative to boost retention rates has been the launch of regular “stay interviews” for newer nursing staff, in recognition that younger nurses often leave their first job after the first one to two years.

The aim is nurses will have a “stay interview” every three months in their first year working at the trust, to check all was well and address any issues early on, and every six months in their second year, said Ms Parker.

She said the trust had also looked closely at factors that prompted staff to leave or stay, and found “different generations had different needs”.

“If you are 17, 18, 19 then everything is faster, quicker and different and it was about looking at how we catered for that generation really,” she said.

As a result, the trust had begun offering many more rotational posts and promising nurses at recruitment events that they will have an interview and find out the result on the same day.

The trust recruited in the Philippines last year with nurses arriving in small batches. It has also recently recruited 35 new nurses from Portugal and Spain.

However, Ms Parker said there had also been a focus on local recruitment. The trust has moved from running recruitment events every six weeks to every two weeks alternating between its two main sites – St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester and Worthing Hospital.

She said they were now recruiting an average of about 20 nurses per month and for the last seven months the number recruited was more than the number of leavers.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Exclusive: Nursing director praises ‘outstanding’ staff

Amanda Parker

Inspectors observed the trust had processes in place, such as induction and checklists “to ensure the safe use of temporary staff”.

Ms Parker said this included thorough briefing on falls management – a key priority for the trust which treats a high proportion of frail and elderly people.

Meanwhile, she said the trust used the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidance on safe staffing and “red flags” were reported and examined on a regular basis.

However, she said: “There is no set ratio of 1:8 or 1:11 as – to be honest – most of our wards need more because we have a very aged population here.”

The average age for inpatients – not including children’s and maternity services – is 82.

Examples of innovative nursing care included the “Bay Watch” scheme to ensure constant care and observation for the most vulnerable patients.

Ms Parker said the trust nurses were also working closely with community colleagues to prevent pressure ulcers.

“They give fantastic, very compassionate care”

Amanda Parker

In addition, maternity services were using social media to reach out to teenage mums and had developed successful peer support for mums-to-be who were overweight.

Another key initiative – noted by CQC inspectors – was the introduction of “sit and see” audits, where staff observed and gave feedback on care provided by colleagues, including highlighting examples of exceptional care.

“Where exemplary care is spotted the staff member gets a letter from me to say, ‘That was really fab – it has been noted’,” she said, adding that it could contribute towards revalidation.

Overall, she said she “wanted to say a great big thank you to all my staff”. “Our outstanding rating is down to the fact they give fantastic, very compassionate care,” she said.

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