NHS Trust Staff Shortage Warning

The Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Peter Carter has said that “It was highly inappropriate that the trust was so firmly focused on becoming a Foundation Trust while failing to deal with pressing issues at hand including getting the right staffing levels and skill mix, ensuring staff were well trained and having proper procedures for acting on problems raised by staff. There are still serious questions to be asked about the role of other organisations in maintaining quality care including the Strategic Health Authority and Primary Care Trust. The RCN believes individual examples of poor care are indefensible. However, it cannot be right for one nurse to run a whole nightshift on her own with a bank health care assistant. Just as important as numbers is getting the skill mix right – having untrained staff performing advanced duties is an accident waiting to happen. We believe those in charge throughout this terrible period should be held to account.”

The warning comes a day after the results of a survey carried out by the British Medical Association that found that British Hospitals are struggling to fill rotas following a reduction in hours from 56 to 48 following the full introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD). Last month the British Medical Journal and the of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom found that the number of Consultant Level Doctors increased by 4.3% in 2008 as Consultant Level Doctors were increasingly required at the front line due to EWTD shortages.

Each day NHS Trusts have to walk the tightrope between adequately ensuring suitable staff levels and balancing the books. This has always been fairly difficult to achieve however external pressures such as the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) and the global recession (which will undoubtedly lead to budget cuts) appear to be making the task even more difficult. For example the EWTD legislation is creating a shortage of junior doctors, therefore NHS Trusts are turning to experienced Consultant Level Doctors to staff front line services, however Consultant Level Doctors charge significantly more than junior doctors, leading to significant pressures on Trust budgets.

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