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West Suffolk Hospital chief Stephen Dunn admits staffing is a problem

West Suffolk Hospital’s chief executive has admitted staffing is one of their main problems.

Stephen Dunn told a board meeting on Friday (April 26) this is at an ‘exceptionally busy’ time, especially for the emergency department.

“One of the main problems we’ve had to tackle this year is staffing levels, particularly for registered nurses,” he stated in his 2019-20 operational plan for the NHS Foundation Trust.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. (9526932)
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. (9526932)

“That’s been felt by staff right across the trust both in the hospital and community setting. We aren’t alone in having nursing vacancies, but it does have a real impact and we want to continue our recruitment drive to make sure things feel better on the ground next year.”

Most recent figures from the trust showed 3,448 whole time equivalent staff were employed against a plan of 3,724, around 93 per cent. The gap was filled by introducing temporary staff.

Professor Dunn added: “We’ve welcomed more than 25 registered nurses in the past few months alone, and as a fantastic trust that really tries hard to care for its staff, I feel confident we can attract talent and increase our workforce to the levels we really need.”

The chief executive reported ‘record numbers’ of patients over winter - with 380,000 more patients being treated in the emergency department than 2017-18. The four hour wait performance for the emergency department in March was 89.4 per cent, with 300 more attendances than March 2018. The NHS target is 95 per cent. Professor Dunn commented: “The trust has experienced high levels of emergency activity over the past two weeks and admitted high numbers of unwell patients.”

Rowan Procter, executive chief nurse, told the board the number of births had been below standard in the hospital’s maternity unit for the past three months.

In March 179 births were counted, following on from 172 in February and 179 in January - all below the standard of 210.

A report added: “The reasons for this are unclear. It is expected that when labour suite refurbishment is completed there is a plan to publicise and promote the high quality delivery rooms designed for 21st century maternity care.”

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