Hospital trust turns to Twitter in bid to cover staff shortages

The trust has experienced a busier January than in 2016.
The trust has experienced a busier January than in 2016.
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The trust which operates the Royal Lancaster Infirmary has turned to social media in a bid to bring staff into work on their days off.

On the last two Saturdays, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has tweeted a desperate plea for any available staff to go into work to help with staff shortages across an already stetched service.

The tweet issued by UHMBT on Saturday.

The tweet issued by UHMBT on Saturday.

Staff sickness and an increase in patient numbers since Christmas meant the hospitals in Lancaster and Barrow both needed extra staff on weekend duty.

Trust programme manager John Butterworth, who was the on call manager on Saturday, said tweeting a message to staff is a fast way of reaching a wide audience.

“We have started using social media quite a bit recently, so this wasn’t a last resort,” he said.

“It can help us out a lot; sometimes even the family and friends of our staff will respond on their behalf.

“We use a bank nurse bureau quite a lot if we have a need for certain staff, but we do find we get a better response by using both methods.”

Mr Butterworth said the trust’s services had been particularly stretched during the Christmas period, and January was already following a similar pattern.

“In general terms the emergency services are under siege nationally and we are not particularly any better or worse than anywhere else but we are experiencing problems,” he said.

The trust has opened an additional 40 beds across Lancaster and Barrow, and the extra pressure, couple with staff sickness, has stretched services more than usual.

“We are using our bank staff anyway, and we have some staff sickness which isn’t out of the ordinary,” Mr Butterworth added.

“We have 3,500 staff across the trust so some will naturally go off sick but that combined with already using the bank staff did leave us short.

“We were very stretched at the weekend.”

Mr Butterworth said the trust experienced a busier Christmas than expected, with an increase in ambulance arrivals, and was already seeing a busier January than in 2016.

This was due to the region’s demographic, he said, and a rise in the number of older people needing care packages.

Meanwhile, the trust has said it has not had to call on the Red Cross or any other voluntary aid society to support its hospitals this winter, despite the pressure it has faced.

This comes after the British Red Cross said that the NHS was suffering its own “humanitarian crisis”, in a week when patients across the UK were reported as dying on trolleys while waiting in A&E and the Red Cross was increasingly called in the assist trusts nearing breaking point.