NHS: Staffing Levels

Part of Cat Welfare – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 11th December 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tracy Brabin Tracy Brabin Shadow Minister (Education) 4:30 pm, 11th December 2018

Certainly, funding and support should be given to frontline staffing. I will go on to talk about how I see that playing out.

The Mid Yorkshire trust is a major employer of about 8,000 members of staff who operate across three hospital sites: Pinderfields Hospital, Pontefract Hospital and Dewsbury and District Hospital, which is in my constituency. Like many trusts across the country, the trust is feeling the pressure on recruitment. In the most up-to-date figures, which were given to me directly by the trust this week, there is a 10% vacancy rate. That includes 95 full-time-equivalent posts for medical staff, 209 vacancies for full-time registered nurses, and vacancies for all other posts covered by the trust. The trust tells me that its key workforce challenge remains recruiting registered nurses and junior doctors in training. Those staff shortages lead to expensive cover being required— a bill that is ultimately paid by the taxpayer.

I am pleased that the trust has taken steps to mitigate against staffing shortages, including an extensive recruitment programme where vacancies across the trust are advertised and marketed widely. It has introduced a new associate nurse role in partnership with a local university, and expanded and increased the number of apprenticeship opportunities to offer different routes into careers in the NHS. It has held open theatre days to promote particularly difficult roles to recruit for, such as operating department practitioners. Finally, it has increased the number of nurses and doctors on the local temporary staff bank, which reduces its reliance on, and the cost of, commercial agency staff. I am sure that all hon. Members agree that that is all great.

Despite that work, problems remain. I must put on record my concern that staffing shortages can lead to problems for patients. The ambulatory emergency care unit at Dewsbury and District Hospital opened in 2015 to care for patients who needed a quick diagnosis and treatment, and who could be treated without the need for admission to a hospital bed. Since July, it has been closed because of staff shortages and it will remain closed for the foreseeable future. It had also been closed from the end of December last year to early March. Patients now face the lengthy and expensive trip to Pinderfields Hospital.

In the most recent inspection at Mid Yorks, the results of which were announced last week, the safety of services was deemed to require improvement, which will cause deep concern to my constituents. We are now told that the harsh funding climate for our NHS, which has existed since 2010, is coming to an end—austerity is over.