Staffing Levels At Russells Hall Hospital Were ‘Not Always Safe’ In Last Six Months

Staffing at a Black Country hospital has not been at a level considered safe at times during the last six months, it has been revealed.

Safe staffing levels had not been fully achieved on occasions at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley between October and last month due to recruitment struggles, sickness and intense A&E pressure, according to a report. Dudley Group NHS Trust bosses have said it is ‘looking at ways to recruit more substantive staff to support our existing workforce’.

The hospital is emerging from an extremely difficult winter, which saw numbers coming into A&E reach record levels. Hospital chiefs have struggled to recruit new workers to bolster the workforce, while sickness levels also increased during the winter, according to the report. 

It said the trust’s sickness rate was above four per cent for the final quarter of 2016/17 – higher than the 3.5 per cent target limit set by NHS chiefs. The report, which is set to come before trust board members said of safe staffing levels:

“This has not been achieved due to ongoing recruitment challenges, continual winter pressures and capacity issues. Staff are moved to support patient safety and mitigate any risks.”

A knock-on effect of the staffing situation at the hospital has been an increased reliance on agency workers. Bosses said agency staffing remained a problem, ‘despite regular recruitment initiatives, introduction of trainee nursing associates and improved management of sickness’.

The hospital struggled to cope during the Christmas period and was forced to issue a plea for people only to attend if they had a serious condition. Diane Wake, trust chief executive, said:

“Patient safety is always our priority and we always try to meet national guidelines for safe staffing. However, on occasions where demand on our services has been unprecedented, we have had to open extra beds for emergency patients and move staff around to keep patients safe.

“We also employ bank and agency staff and deploy matrons to work clinically, providing direct patient care, when demand is high. Our priority is to ensure we provide safe care for all of our patients and we continually monitor staffing levels on all wards on a shift by shift basis to make sure we have the right staff in place to provide appropriate care for patients.

“Siobhan Jordan joined the trust as Interim Chief Nurse from 10th April and is looking at ways to recruit more substantive staff to support our existing workforce in providing the best possible care to patients.”

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