Nicholas Carding, Health Correspondent of the EDP reports:
A shortage of permanent nursing staff at several mental health wards in Norfolk has today prompted concerns over patient safety.
Directors of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) will discuss staffing issues at a meeting in Norwich tomorrow, with a senior manager warn-ing the problem poses the highest risk to the trust’s standard of services. The recruitment problems leave the trust with no choice but to increase spending on temporary staff – at a time when the government is attempting to force trusts to reduce their agency expenditure by imposing spending caps.
A spokesman for the region’s mental health campaign group said they were concerned about risks to patient safety if the trust cut the number of temporary staff to avoid breaching the caps.
But according to its report some inpatient wards in the Norwich area were staffed by less than 50pc of trust-employed registered nurses during nights in July, the most recent available figures show. They were at Hellesdon Hospital’s Whitlingham Ward (46pc) and Norvic Clinic’s Catton Ward (48pc), while during the day Reed Ward (58pc), at Hammerton Court, Norwich, had the lowest fill of the trust’s registered nurses.
The report, by NSFT’s deputy director of nursing Michelle Allott, concludes: “Staffing concerns remain the highest risk to provision of quality services currently.”
Jane Sayer, NSFT’s director of nursing, quality, and patient safety, said the trust had reduced its number of vacancies after recruiting 349 clinical staff in the past 12 months. She said: “In Norfolk and Suffolk there are certain areas where it has always been challenging to recruit.
The Director of Nursing at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), Jane Sayer, quite astonishingly, keeps her back to the public when answering questions from the public at Board meetings: perhaps she can’t face the truth. NSFT may have recruited 349 clinical staff in the past twelve months but the recently published accounts tell the full story, not just of arrivals but departures. Why do the NSFT Board continue to rely on spin rather than facts?
The 2014/15 NSFT Annual Report and Accounts shows (all figures are whole time equivalent):
- The number of doctors permanently employed by NSFT fell by 9.2 per cent, from 117 to 108 in just twelve months
- In 2011/12, NSFT permanently employed 190 doctors. In the three years since, the number of permanently employed doctors fell by 43.2 per cent
- The number of nurses permanently employed by NSFT fell by 3.9 per cent, from 1,234 to 1,186 in just twelve months
- In 2011/12, NSFT permanently employed 1,297 nursing staff. In the three years since, the number of permanently employed nurses fell by 8.6 per cent
- Since 2010/11. the number of nurses, permanent and temporary, has fallen by 185, from 1,438 to 1,253,
At the same time, demand has increased and NSFT spent £17.25 million on paying experienced, highly-qualified staff to leave. The managers responsible have been promoted. The Chief Executive was awarded a twenty-five per cent pay rise.
Now, NSFT’s very survival is in doubt as it burns cash, with expenditure on temporary staff this year currently forecast to be a staggering £6.5 million over budget.
NSFT is relying on the proceeds of the sale of the St Clements hospital site but continually selling assets is not a sustainable way to fund grossly underfunded mental health services. Even this ‘windfall’ is threatened by the ‘discovery’ of asbestos, which staff tell us this was known about and ‘sealed-up’ over two years ago.
Meanwhile, NSFT’s Board will today waste precious time discussing the Trust Secretary being renamed Company Secretary to satisfy the current postholder’s vanity. Even though NSFT isn’t a company and nobody wants it to be. Perhaps, following the lead of private sector companies, the trust solicitor could become the Trust/Company Secretary and NSFT could save £87,309.30 per annum?
A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “We know it is hard to get people to move to Norfolk, so we have a limited pool of experienced staff in the area.
“Our concern is that the cuts to temporary staffing could impact on patient safety.”
Click on the image below to read the full story on the EDP website: