Concerns raised over hospital’s staff levels

Ann Marr, chief executive  St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust
Ann Marr, chief executive St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust
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SERIOUS concerns about staffing levels at Whiston Hospital have been discovered following an internal review.

The detailed report by senior managers found more staff were needed and changes were required to the skills mix of employees on a number of medical and surgical wards.

Authored by the hospital’s director of nursing and its governance manager, the report also warns of a potential impact on patient care should the issue not be resolved.

The findings were part of an internal review but were made public in an otherwise positive report by the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

Crucially, the hospital was found to be meeting the CQC’s standard for staffing because there are enough staff to keep patients safe and meet their health and welfare needs.

Steve Flanagan, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, blamed staffing concerns on the Government’s failure to help the local NHS trust reduce the debt it racked up during the building of the new hospital.

He said: “Despite serious financial problems at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, nurses there continue to provide good quality care. Both the trust and CQC clearly recognise the need to increase staff numbers and the skill mix in some areas, but until the government delivers its promised bail-out, the trust is unable to move forward.”

The hospital’s report recommended that all vacancies should be filled as soon as possible.

A second detailed report was ordered three months later which was broadened to look in depth at the skills set of current staff.

Both reports concluded hospital recruitment procedures were too lengthy and needed to be strengthened.

The CQC report states: “The (internal) report found there was a need for increased staffing and changes to the skill mix of staff on a number of medical and surgical wards.

“Risk associated with the shortfalls in staffing were clearly identified including the impact on quality of care and the additional pressures placed on staff.

“Senior managers told us work has been undertaken to strengthen and streamline the recruitment process. There had not been a regular process in place to ensure that vacancies from people leaving were filled quickly.”

However, the CQC inspectors also noted staff were pleased with the way staffing issues in the past had been resolved, with one saying: “Work was very stressful about two years ago and a lot of staff went off sick. It’s much better now and we get good support.”

Inspectors also said they did not encounter any patients, relatives or staff members raising concerns about staff levels.

A hospital spokeswoman said: “The Care Quality Commission, (CQC) independent report clearly and unequivocally confirms that staffing levels are sufficient.”