Scores of hospitals’ shift levels fall below minimum

Trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael

Trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

ALMOST 60 staff shifts in the county’s hospitals were below the “minimum safe” level in March, new figures have revealed.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust must now publish their staffing figures every two months.

They show how for March, 58 shifts went to the “escalation” level, meaning staff had to be drafted in from elsewhere.

This was out of 5,947 total shifts, of which about two thirds were at the agreed staffing level.

Staffing numbers are decided by the hospital, ward-by-ward, depending on what staff are needed.

Health bosses have given assurances that they are doing all they can to combat the less than one per cent below “minimum safe” levels.

The trust’s acting chief nurse Liz Wright told the Oxford Mail that ‘minimum safe’ means “there is an increase in activity or short notice sickness but that actions are taken locally to support needs of patients”.

She added: “Should a ward area be identified as having levels below this then the process of ‘escalation’ s means that the matron or divisional nurse will act to move staff around from outside the ward and/or take other actions to support the team.”

And local nursing representatives have said they appreciate work being done to increase recruitment.

Royal College of Nursing officer for Bucks & Oxon, Victoria Couling, said: “We are always concerned about the issue of nursing shortages.

“It is very important that the hospital needs to be staffed to safe levels with permanent staff.

“We are aware that the trust has invested a significant amount of money to increase nursing levels, with Oxfordshire being an expensive recruitment area.

“We have regular meetings with the hospital and we agree this is an important issue.”

Children’s services shifts made up 10 of the below “minimum safe” level, but the trust said seven midwifes had been offered a post and are due to start in September.

A total of 40 of all shifts across the trust had “surplus” staff and about two thirds – 4,257 shifts – were at the full agreed level over the month.

Some 1,690 were classed as the “minimum safe” level, and 58 were the level below “minimum safe”.

These “escalation” shifts meant action had to be taken to fill gaps – but bosses said not all were filled.

The trust would not say how many shifts were not covered when asked by the Oxford Mail, but its report said it took steps to “ensure patient safety”, such as changing workloads, admitting emergencies to other wards and bringing in other ward staff.

It said: “By adopting such measures a safe clinical environment for patients was maintained in all cases.”

The report said escalation shifts “occurred largely due to short notice sickness and/or inability to fill with temporary staff.” It said this was “in spite of a suite of options being considered as part of the process” and, for example, extra staff in other wards being brought in.

The trust said: “It was not always possible to fill all escalation shifts.”
Chairman of official watchdog Healthwatch, Larry Sanders said: “We want good care for the people of Oxfordshire and that requires adequate staffing and therefore this lack of full staffing is very serious.”

Oxford Mail: Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith MP

Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “It is vital for patient safety that staffing levels provide proper cover and gaps are filled.”

The figures come after inspectors last week raised concerns about staff shortages at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Concerns made in the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection included a “lack of sufficient numbers” in surgery, maternity and operating theatres.

The problems are despite a trust-wide increase in full-time roles from 9,102 to 9,590 in 2013/14.

Trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael told last Wednesday’s trust board the figures are “testament to good staffing management”.

He said: “I wouldn’t wish members of the board to be concerned that [minimum safe] equals anything other than safe staffing levels.”

The figures were published under instructions from NHS England and the CQC, which last week rated the trust good under its Hard Truths scheme, which demanded public figures between April and June.

The CQC reported the trust said Oxford’s high cost of living and lack of hospital parking and its cost led to recruitment difficulties.

It saw delays in patients being discharged from intensive care to surgery and this “put pressure on staff” to discharge them.

Staff also reported “high levels of stress and low morale due to workload” and operating theatre lists cancelled about once a week due to shortages.

Neurosurgery doctors told inspectors “sometimes the medical staffing levels felt unsafe” with one junior doctor looking after 74 patients out of hours.

But the trust said its spreadsheet-based recording system is “fragile” and “open to user error” and needs to be replaced by a more “robust” system.

  • Top News

Our top stories:

MP Nicola Blackwood: I'm battling a genetic mobility condition

Oxford Mail: Nicola Blackwood

8:00am Tuesday 31st March 2015

MP NICOLA Blackwood has revealed she has been battling with a genetic condition for years but believes it has not affected her performance as a politician.

Police still working to identify body found in Thames

Oxford Mail:

9:07am Tuesday 31st March 2015

POLICE are still working to identify the body of a woman that was found in the River Thames on Friday.

Patrick Hoban happy to reward Oxford United's faith

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Tuesday 31st March 2015

Patrick Hoban thanked boss Michael Appleton and his Oxford United teammates for keeping faith in him after the longest scoring drought of his career came to an end.

City council told new on-the-spot fines infringe human rights

Oxford Mail: oxford city council logo

8:20am Tuesday 31st March 2015

A GROUP that campaigns against excessive red tape has spoken out against Oxford City Council’s plans to introduce on-the-spot fines for antisocial behaviour in the city centre.

‘Builders and bricks shortage’ blamed for delays in housing

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Tuesday 31st March 2015

A MAJOR shortage of bricklayers and construction materials in Oxfordshire has been blamed for delays to a city housebuilding scheme.

Oxford University told assessment missing information over more expensive Castle Mill flats options

Oxford Mail: The Castle Mill flats

7:32am Tuesday 31st March 2015

OXFORD University has been told to provide more information about a key assessment of the controversial Castle Mill student flats after claims it contained “omissions”.

Food ratings: Kennington Bangladeshi restaurant gets zero star rating

Oxford Mail:

7:10am Tuesday 31st March 2015

THE manager of a Bangladeshi restaurant given a food hygiene rating of zero out of five has branded the decision unfair.

Donovan wants to return to Oxford 50 years after gig that sparked lifelong friendship

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Tuesday 31st March 2015

INTERNATIONAL folk star Donovan is returning to perform in Oxford 50 years after a gig that started a lifelong friendship.

Video: Campaigners gather in East Oxford to call for independent inquiry into Operation Bullfinch

Oxford Mail:

7:03pm Monday 30th March 2015

PROTESTERS gathered in the pouring rain at a vigil in East Oxford to voice calls for an independent inquiry into Operation Bullfinch.

Woman pushed to ground as bag snatched in Faringdon

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

6:03pm Monday 30th March 2015

A 34-year-old woman was pushed to the ground and had her bag taken from her in Faringdon.

Residents asked for just a Little-more for parish

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 30th March 2015

AN EXTRA 59p a week council tax in Littlemore could pay for a dedicated community worker, it has been claimed.

Banbury charity prepares puppies to help disabled

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 30th March 2015

THESE adorable pups couldn’t have more fun as they bonded with each other as they embark on their journey to help those in need.

‘Plans to scrap subsidies could spark city leisure centre price hike’

Oxford Mail:

5:00pm Monday 30th March 2015

LEISURE centre prices could go up in the city if plans to scrap subsidies go ahead, a council watchdog committee fears.

Weather alert: High winds feared for this evening and Tuesday

Oxford Mail: Snow set for Gloucestershire as Met Office issues severe weather warning

4:04pm Monday 30th March 2015

OXFORDSHIRE has been put under a yellow weather warning for high winds this evening and tomorrow.

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

10:21am Tue 20 May 14

Mark L. says...

“We are aware that the trust has invested a significant amount of money to increase nursing levels, with Oxfordshire being an expensive recruitment area"

So why did you cut Nurses pay by ending the recruitment and retention payments last year then. Most shifts my wife works are short staffed. On xmas day and New Years eve, she was the only trained nurse looking after 15 patients. Short staffed, shift after shift yet correct staffing level on the days of the CQC inspections. Easy when you know in advance.
“We are aware that the trust has invested a significant amount of money to increase nursing levels, with Oxfordshire being an expensive recruitment area" So why did you cut Nurses pay by ending the recruitment and retention payments last year then. Most shifts my wife works are short staffed. On xmas day and New Years eve, she was the only trained nurse looking after 15 patients. Short staffed, shift after shift yet correct staffing level on the days of the CQC inspections. Easy when you know in advance. Mark L.
  • Score: 6

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree