Fears over ‘lack of ward staff’

REPORT: Ward 39 is in the RLI's Centenary Building
REPORT: Ward 39 is in the RLI's Centenary Building
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Staff shortages on a hospital ward – which opened in 2012 – have led to inadequate patient care, a report has said.

Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) staff told inspectors that lack of staff on Ward 39 in the Centenary Building may have contributed to high numbers of medication errors and patient falls.

Several patients also claimed they had to wait for long periods of time before they received help.

Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued a formal warning to the University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust.

The trust said it was already taking urgent action to recruit.

Ward 39 opened in November 2012 as part of a re-organisation in the Centenary Building designed to improve conditions for patients.

The ward houses patients who need to stay in hospital for three days or more.

Unannounced inspections were carried out by the CQC in October 2013. The CQC report also recognised improvements in maternity services at the RLI and Furness General Hospital in Barrow, also run by the trust, saying they met national standards and there were sufficient staff.

The trust had come under fire due to baby deaths at Furness General in 2008.

Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC’s regional director for the north, said: “We are pleased to report the improvement in maternity services found on our inspection.

“However, the staffing concerns identified on ward 39 at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary were unacceptable, and we warned the trust it must take further action to ensure safe and effective care is provided to every patient.

“We continue to monitor the situation carefully, liaising closely with NHS England, Monitor and local commissioners, to ensure the required improvements are implemented. Our inspectors will return, unannounced.”

The CQC praised the RLI saying “there were systems in place to support people in making complaints” and “we observed staff talking with people in a respectful manner”.

Sue Smith, executive chief nurse for the trust, said: “Work was 
already taking place to address the issues, and further work has taken place since the inspection.

“We are also beginning to use a measurement of the illness of patients we are treating to ensure that in the long term our staffing meets the needs of our patients.

“We have been actively recruiting to posts and since January 2013 have successfully recruited 135 more nurses and midwives than have left.

“The CQC is due to return to the trust at the beginning of February and this will give us a further opportunity to demonstrate the progress the trust has made.

“I would like to thank all the staff involved for their hard work and for ensuring we continue to provide safe care.

“The priority is for patients to receive safe, high quality clinical care and we work hard to ensure this continues to be delivered.”