Nurse staffing levels were not always sufficient across Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and in need of urgent review, particularly on elderly care wards, the Keogh review has found.
The probe of 14 trusts with high mortality ratios, led by NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, recommended that Blackpool “should adopt a policy of minimum safe staffing levels on all wards, monitor compliance with the policy” and run biannual formal establishment reviews.
It noted that Blackpool had “recruitment challenges, particularly with regard to consultants and nurses” and called for the trust to identify “innovative” ways to recruit and retain staff.
It added: “The trust needs to urgently assure itself that whilst recruitment of more staff is underway, the current staffing levels at the trust are safe, particularly on late shifts and out of hours, until further nurses and medical staff are recruited.”
The review report concluded that Blackpool had an “effective board structure” and held regular mortality meetings to understand the causes of mortality.
But it continued: “The pace of change at the trust has been slow. The leadership team at the trust has been trying to do too much and needs to focus on the key areas of concern.
“The board should concentrate on the mission critical actions that need to take place to address the mortality concerns in the areas where it is an outlier.”
It also raised concerns that the trust’s incident review system was “unreliable in terms of reporting and classification of serious incidents, multi-disciplinary investigation and dissemination of findings”.
However, the review also offered praise for the trust, stating: “The panel considered that the board displayed a positive attitude to the review
process and were supportive of the new Executive team in making the required changes. The Trust staff were enthusiastic and committed to change. They were candid about the issues they faced in delivering high quality care and patient experience.”
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals chief executive Gary Doherty said: “We have been working extremely hard over the past months to address the areas of concern raised and it is pleasing that the published data pack and the final report recognise the progress we have already made in reducing mortality rates and putting in place plans to improve further.
“However, it is clear that we need to move at a much faster pace and target our efforts on making large improvements in a smaller number of key areas over the next few months.”
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