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Colchester trust issues plea to potential recruits as vacancy rate climbs

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The number of registered nursing vacancies has climbed over recent months at Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust, prompting its senior nurse to “reassures” potential recruits.

The Essex trust has been the focus of criticism from the Care Quality Commission, which published its most recent report on the organisation earlier in February.

The trust’s main hospital currently had around 141 whole time equivalent band 5 nurse vacancies and 34.9 band 2 healthcare assistant vacancies in January, according to latest board papers.

This compared to 126 WTE vacancies at Colchester General Hospital in December and 104.6 in November.

However, the number of band 2 vacancies has been falling at the hospital due to an “intensive” recruitment drive since October 2014, the trust noted.

In January, there 34.9 WTE band 2 vacancies, down from 52.7 in December and 69.5 in November.

Across the trust as a whole, as of 10 February, there were 164.54 WTE band 5 vacancies and 51.54 HCA vacancies.

The high vacancy factor was accounting for the “poor fill rates in some areas”, said the trust, noting there was an improvement in the overall nurse fill rate on days during January but a slight reduction on nights.

“It really isn’t all bad and together we can make this hospital a really good place where excellent care is given to our patients”

Barbara Stuttle

The board report highlighted that the trust was taking a range of action to try and address situation, including holding future European recruitment events, using more agency staff, tightening staff level monitoring by matrons and moving staff between wards.

The report was written by associate director of nursing Louise Notley ahead of the trust’s next board meeting on 26 February.  

Meanwhile, Barbara Stuttle, the trusts’ director of nursing and quality, has issued a message to “all nurses” in a bid to improve recruitment in the wake of the recent negative publicity stemming from the attention given to the organisation by the CQC.

Ms Stuttle said: “I would like to reassure you that despite the adverse publicity, our trust is a good place to work. We will utilise your skills and expertise and develop you as we develop our services.

“Yes, we have some issues and concerns, but I am convinced that if we can increase our numbers of nurses to join our brilliant staff within the trust, we can meet our objectives,” she said.

“It really isn’t all bad and together we can make this hospital a really good place where excellent care is given to our patients,” she added.

Insufficient staffing levels, poor hygiene and infection control procedures, and nursing staff not always treating patients in a caring way were among the problems found at the trust by CQC inspectors.

The CQC, which visited the hospital in November and December, used urgent enforcement powers at the time to place conditions on the trust’s registration procedures to improve patient assessment, discharge and transfer.

It has been in special measures since 2013, when CQC inspectors received reports from staff that they had been bullied into changing patient data to help meet cancer treatment waiting targets.

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