Agency Nurse Use Rises in East Yorkshire Amid Serious Staff Shortages

Hospitals Forced To Rely on Agency Nurses For Cover As Absence Levels Rise

14.07.2014

An NHS Trust has been forced to spend nearly £1 million on bringing in agency nurses because of a serious shortage of such professionals at two of its hospitals, according to new figures.
 
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust had to foot the bill in the space of just 12 months - a 77 per cent increase - as the impact of absences at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham started to be felt, the Hull Daily Mail reports.
 
Indeed, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently discovered that some medical wards there had been stricken with sickness levels of 11 per cent, with many staff signing off sick or refusing to take any overtime because of the stress caused by the constant need to meet targets.
 
This had a knock-on effect on patients, with some in A&E being forced to wait 30 minutes for commodes and 132 shifts going uncovered in the acute assessment unit. This may mean potentially serious health conditions could have been missed by struggling healthcare workers.
 
Furthermore, the agency staff being drafted in to help cope with the shortages were being sent to units and wards they may not have been skilled enough to work in, for example, general nurses could find themselves in neurology where patients have very specific care requirements.
 
Nurses told the CQC they felt overworked and under huge pressure, leading the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to call for the situation to be rectified as a matter of urgency.
 
"The RCN wants to see concrete action to address these serious issues at Hull," a spokesperson said, adding that a confidential telephone hotline should also be implemented so that staff can report their concerns before they start to impact upon patients.
 
However, although a representative for the Trust admitted there had been a "significant increase" in the number of agency nurses being used, they insisted this was down to the addition of 24 beds at the hospitals and fewer operations being cancelled.

Expert Opinion
It is concerning that the NHS Trust have seen such a huge increase in the use of agency staff due to shortages and absences at the hospitals within the Trust.

“Patient safety has to be the number one priority for hospital trusts. Patients put their faith in medical professionals and trust that there are sufficient resources at the hospital to treat them and that careless mistakes will not be made due to increasing pressure on the facilities and staff.

“It is hugely important that these concerns over standards are carefully considered and reviewed to ensure that they always meet an adequate level.

“We see recurring cases where problems have emerged as a result of hospitals not being able to cope with the level of demand due to staff shortages and substandard care and the problems of the past simply cannot be allowed to be repeated.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner