A MENTAL health trust has been ignoring serious understaffing on its wards, with potentially dangerous consequences for staff and patients, claim nurses.
The accusations have sparked warnings that the trust is risking a visit from regulators, like that which occurred at the neighbouring Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.
The RCN has pledged to investigate the case.
A nurse, who did not want to be named, told delegates at last month’s college AGM that Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust encouraged staff not to fill in forms that reported safety and staffing issues in the workplace.
Wards at the trust had a shortfall of nursing staff of around 40%, putting patient care and safety at risk, the nurse said.
‘I have been told not to fill in incident forms because it would upset managers,’ the nurse told delegates at the London meeting.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘What we have heard is extremely serious. We have to get our local full-time officer on the case.’
Sharon Dennis, RCN regional director for the South East, said: ‘[These forms contain] anything that people think is untoward. It could be staffing levels, it could be patients falling out of bed, it could be someone who has smashed the
place up – anything that could be a potential or actual risk.
‘In a mental health unit there is an issue of staffing and safety that will be compromised by [low] staffing levels.’
Mike Travis, former RCN council member for the North West, warned that the trust was risking a similar situation to that which occurred at Maidstone. ‘They will be the next organisation to be investigated by the Healthcare Commission,’ he said.
‘The managers should be supportive of having [health and safety] audited.’
However, a spokesperson for the trust denied the claims. ‘We do encourage our staff to raise any issues they may have with line managers through the completion of incident forms,’ she said. ‘There is no endemic problem with staff levels within the trust.’