Mid Yorkshire hospital trust “heading for another Mid Staffs” warns MP

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff.
Picture by Scott Merrylees

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff. Picture by Scott Merrylees

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AN MP has warned that a Yorkshire hospital trust could be “heading for another Mid Staffs” disaster if staffing issues are not urgently resolved.

Speaking at an adjournment debate on staffing at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust in Parliament last night, Labour MP for Dewsbury, Paula Sherriff raised concerns about patients safety at the Trust, which runs Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, and hospitals in Pontefract and Dewsbury.

She said that during a meeting with fellow Labour MP for Batley, Jo Cox, the Trust’s interim chief executive Martin Barkley said the leadership team had “effectively been in crisis mode” for the past 14 months.

She said: “He said that the trust had recently put in an additional 120 beds across the Trust to cope with increasing demand, but the 100 extra staff who should have accompanied that expansion are nowhere to be seen. The posts simply have not been filled.”

Ms Sherriff, who worked in hospitals before becoming an MP, went on to give examples of poor patient care reported by constituents, including an 84-year-old man left on a trolley at Dewsbury Hospital for 14 hours, before being transferred to a ward where he was left in dirty bedding, covered in food, and naked from the waste down.

Another constituent told her that staff at the spinal injuries unit - the Yorkshire regional centre - were “constantly reallocated” to other wards, “in essence robbing Peter to Paul”.

She said: “A nurse even told a patient that because they were so short-staffed, if two patients got into respiratory difficulties, which is not uncommon on a spinal injuries ward, the nurses would have to choose which patient they were to save.”

Ms Sherriff, who sits on the Health Select Committee, said a recent inspection by the Care Quality Commission found that the Trust’s nursing staffing aim of one nurse to every eight patients on adults wards was “very inconstantly met” and during a recent unannounced visit to Pinderfields Hospital in August, of the 17 wards only one was staffed to safe staffing levels. Ten were at minimum level and six were actually below the minimum.

“Indeed, records show that in August 2015 only 71 per cent of nursing hours were achieved,” she said.

All had added to a knock-on effect of staff motivation, she said, who she praised for “their hard work, dedication and professionalism”.

“The amount of disciplinary action being taken against staff has risen in recent months, which is generally due to staff making minor mistakes or not being able to follow procedures through fully for want of time,” she said. “That is a symptom of the shorthandedness that has been experienced on the wards, and it contributes to the general air of despondency as staff are effectively penalised for not being able to be in two places at once.”

She has called for a meeting with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt next month to discuss the concerns.

She added: “However, we are in danger of forgetting the lessons learned from the Mid Staffordshire situation about the absolute priority that must be given to safe staffing levels. Unless we can crack this by getting the qualified staff we need, no amount of reorganisation will make up for poor care.”

Mid Staffs has become the byword for negligent care after numerous inquiries found that between 400 and 1,2000 patients died as a result of care between January 2005 and March 2009 at Staffordshire Hospital.

The trust was criticised for a cost-cutting culture that led to wards being inadequately staffed and patients put at risk. More than 150 nurses left the trust between 2006 and 2008.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post today, Ms Sherriff added: “This is not about politics to me, I am genuinely worried that we are heading for another Mid Staffs. I’m not prepared for that to happen on my watch. Something needs to be done.

“I don’t want to know what’s happening next year, or in the next 18 months, I want to see tangible improvements or this is going to have to be escalated.

“If they don’t get enough staff to man the wards effectively or safely these wards should not be open.”

Last week, we reported on concerns that five of the Trust’s eight neurologists were leaving in the next few months.

The Trust’s acting chief nurse, David Melia, said: “We have made a concerted effort to improve nurse recruitment and implement innovative solutions to supplement the nursing workforce – such as introducing safety support workers to help on the wards and senior nursing staff monitoring staffing levels twice a day.

“We have introduced close monitoring by the Trust Board, of areas where staffing levels fall below optimum levels to identify any potential risks to our patients.

“As a Trust we have also made significant progress in some key areas since the last CQC inspection, for example in pressure ulcer care, role specific mandatory training,

falls prevention and medicines management – where the compliance notice was lifted. All of these areas have seen improvement.

“In addition, Emergency Care Improvement Programme (ECIP) work is currently underway to address any potential whole-system flow issues.”

Read Ms Sherriff’s full speech here.

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