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Trusts forced to hire more nursing staff to ensure safety

  • 11 Comments

A growing number of hospitals are seeking to recruit hundreds of extra nurses to ensure the safety of patients, against a national backdrop of cuts, it has emerged.

Nursing Times has identified a number of acute hospitals that have reversed bed reductions and begun attempts to increase nurse staffing to ensure they can deliver safe quality care.

Trusts are blaming the continued rise in demand for acute services and increasing complexity of patient conditions, despite government policy being to move more care into community settings.

The moves also follow a widespread squeeze on nursing posts across the country, as managers struggle to meet savings targets imposed on them by regulators and the Department of Health.

According to NHS figures, between May 2010 and 2012, the nursing workforce shrank by almost 5,000.

A review by London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust has found an “overall shortfall” on staffing of 111. A report presented to the last meeting of the trust’s board said “immediate action” was required to fill 30 vacancies in the medicine and elderly care departments.

Nursing Times has identified a surge in recruitment in particular across the Midlands.

In the west of the region, the University Hospital of North Staffordshire is to recruit an extra 100 nurses after being forced to keep 130 beds open for the next five years due to a rise in demand.

Meanwhile, following a workforce review, the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals Trust is to spend almost £1m recruiting 18 band five staff nurses, six band two night staff. This would create a qualified to unqualified staff ratio of 70:30.

To the east, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust is spending more than £4m to open 80 new beds and employ 120 more staff, after a surge in emergency demand meant it had to cancel an unprecedented number of operations.

The University Hospitals of Leicester is the most recent trust to reveal a shortage of nurses on its wards.

Reviews carried out in September and March found significant shortages across the trust, with particular gaps in musculoskeletal, cardio-respiratory, cancer, and women’s and children’s services. -

To fill the gaps the trust estimated it would need to spend £2.8m, but only £2m has so far been identified. This will be spent on recruiting a total of 42 qualified nurses and 25 healthcare assistants, which will create a qualified to unqualified staff ratio of 65:30.

The trust’s director of nursing Carole Ribbins said: “The acuity of patients and the dependency of patients has been increasing. We have had wards where the youngest patient has been 90-years-old.”

She said all new staff would be in place before the winter, adding: “I’m confident we have safe staffing levels to provide high quality patient care. We have done a very thorough review and we owe that to our staff and our patients.”

Jim Buchan, professor of health sciences at Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University and an expert in nursing workforce, told Nursing Times that “some employers are now feeling the staffing pinch”.

He said it could take four years to boost nursing numbers from within the UK, noting that in the short-term trusts may have to consider recruiting from European Union countries.

The government’s Transforming Community Services programme, which officially ended in 2011, was partly intended to lead to a shift in much of the work done in acute settings into the community, but patient attendance at hospitals has stubbornly continued to increase in most areas, as has the acuity of those being admitted.

Professor Buchan added: “With average patient acuity increasing in many hospital wards as a result of the efficiency drive to reduce lengths of stay, trusts will have to be confident they monitor changing staffing requirements.

“It will not just be about having more nursing hours to deploy, it will be necessary to have the right skills. Trusts will have to get smarter at matching variable workload to the right staffing and skills levels.”

However, attempts by these trusts to recruit more nurses come in contrast to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in west Kent, which has revealed this month that it has offered all of its staff voluntary redundancy as it struggles to save around £20m this year.

  • Is your trust cutting posts or recruiting? Let Nursing Times know by emailing shaun.lintern@emap.com
  • 11 Comments

Readers' comments (11)

  • Bull. Absolute crap. That headline is totally misleading.

    ONE trust has increased its qualified/unqualified ratio, great.But that does not in any way mean that there are enough staff for the amount of patients they have.

    North Staffs is hiring 100 more staff, but that is only after being forced to open up 130 more beds, hmm, that isn't really a staff increase is it?

    The numbers they are talking about hiring are a drop in the ocean.

    What annoys me more than anything is this statement, 'it could take four years to boost nursing numbers from within the UK, noting that in the short-term trusts may have to consider recruiting from European Union countries.' For crying out loud!!! BRITISH nurses have been struggling to find work for years! How many qualify and struggl;e to find a job? Stop cutting posts and bloody HIRE THEM!!!!!

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  • Pirate and Parrot

    'Trusts are blaming the continued rise in demand for acute services and increasing complexity of patient conditions, despite government policy being to move more care into community settings.'

    Ah - these unco-operative patients.

    Despite being ordered to stay healthy, the so-and-sos are developing increasingly complex medical conditions, are they, and throwing the plans into confusion.

    Just as well I'm a parrot, and sorting this one out isn't down to me,

    Parrot

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  • and the tories are talking about closing A&E departments and even whole hospitals when the care for people is rising

    "I will cut the deficit (by taking off the poor and giving to the rich!!( and not cut the nhs......yeh ok!!

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  • I would be surprised if a) The Trusts actually recruit (as opposed to just saying it) and b) It has anything to do with patient safety.

    I think there are some Trusts starting to realise that earmarking all their needed savings on Nursing cuts was the wrong way to go...but then what else if they won't cut management posts? A lot of them will probably be forced into it by the CQC. My Trust was forced to recruit a total of 70 new Trained Nurses after they were heavily criticised for jeopardising patient safety with their cutting of nurse posts. They ended up aggressively recruiting from Ireland and Portugal.

    Overall, Trust bosses will continue to cut nursing posts, regardless of these headlines, as they look to make most of their savings through front-line posts so that they don't have to cut the jobs of their fellow managers. I have lost total and complete faith in the NHS now and I am not sure I want to be part of a system anymore where, asides from front-line staff, the main aim of the service is to save money even if it costs patients their lives

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  • The NHS continues to pick up the pieces of a failing social care system. Also the Government has known for years that we would have a rise in the elderly population and the conscequences from this. Our Trust is consulting about plans to combine our Acute, stroke and rehabilitation beds for older people. This will obviously reduce beds and staff numbers.
    When our Matron talked to us about the plans.I asked her how the shortfall in beds would be accomodated. She replied that community services would pick this up. This is unrealistic we already have unacceptable waiting times for care and rehabilitation services and rehabilitation beds in the community.
    I actually felt quite sorry for our Matron as she appears to be much intouch with the realities of the service at grass roots level.Although she obviously didnt comment on the validity of the consultation.
    And it demonstrated to me that even at such a senior level Nurses often have very little say. So what chance do the Nurses on the wards have ?
    We have seen NO reduction in management posts in our Trust.
    Our '' Escalation beds'' remain open all year round.
    This is the worst state Ive seen the NHS in , in the 20 years ive been qualified.

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  • There are too many elderly patients stuck in acute hospital beds medically fit but socially not sorted. They are at risk of picking up infections, a hospital ward is an unsafe environment. It is not their fault and they would not chose to be there. The social system is too slow I can have two weeks leave and there has been no movement for some of our poor patients.

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  • tinkerbell

    'forced' mind, forced. Just goes to show that if they listened to the staff on the shopfloor they wouldn't be so 'clueless' or 'careless'

    Now they realise they 'owe it' to the staff and patients. Who'd have thought? Deep sigh.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Sep-2012 5:45 pm

    There are too many elderly patients stuck in acute hospital beds medically fit but socially not sorted. They are at risk of picking up infections, a hospital ward is an unsafe environment. It is not their fault and they would not chose to be there. The social system is too slow I can have two weeks leave and there has been no movement for some of our poor patients.


    Totally agree with you. I'm a student nurse on an elderly medical ward and sorting out care/placement for them is a battlefield. We have a social worker who tries to escape without looking at the folder for ref's, a CHC man who is too busy to sort out placement for a man who has been in for 40+ days, care homes saying they'll come and assess then don't turn up....the list is endless. These poor people don't want to be in hospital, their families don't want to see their relatives in hospital but nothing changes. We spend so much time just chasing up referrals and paperwork for chasing up the original referral!! All while short staffed and trying to have patient contact!

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  • The accountancy based management systems are being forced to admit they lost the plot when cutting back on front line staff.
    It makes a thinking person wonder just what the true cost of their flawed mismanagement really has been to the NHS in litigation, skilled Nurses lost to other jobs, patient/carer satisfaction and dare I say it...lives?

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  • tinkerbell

    Roger Hodgson | 27-Sep-2012 7:38 pm

    One death is a tragedy, a million a statistic, we will all end up as statistics when all this is over, if ever it is over. Pandoras box has been opened and may never be closed again.

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