Patients hit out over ‘understaffed’ Lancaster hospital ward

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Staff shortages on one of a Lancaster hospital’s newest wards have led to inadequate patient care, a report has revealed.

Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) staff also told inspectors that lack of staff on Ward 39 in the Centenary Building may have contributed to high numbers of medication errors and patient falls.

Several patients also claimed they had to wait for long periods of time before they received help from staff.

Health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has now issued a formal warning to the University Hospital of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust and told it to improve staffing levels on Ward 39.

The Trust said it was already taking urgent action to recruit.

Ward 39 opened in November 2012 as part of a re-organisation in the Centenary Building designed to improve conditions for patients.

The ward houses patients who need to stay in hospital for three days or more.

Unannounced inspections were carried out by the CQC in October 2013.

The CQC report also recognised improvements in maternity services at the RLI and at Furness General Hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, also run by the Trust, saying they met national standards and there were sufficient staff.

The Trust had come under fire due to baby deaths at Furness General in 2008.

Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC’s Regional Director for the North said: “We are pleased to report the improvement in maternity services we found on our inspection.

“However, the staffing concerns identified on ward 39 at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary were unacceptable, and we warned the trust that it must take further action to ensure safe and effective care is provided to every patient.

“We continue to monitor the situation carefully, liaising closely with NHS England, Monitor and local commissioners, to ensure that the required improvements are implemented.

“Our inspectors will return unannounced to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary to ensure that the required improvements have been implemented and are being sustained.”

The CQC reports also praised the RLI saying “there were systems in place to support people in making complaints”, ”everyone we spoke with said their privacy and dignity was always respected and felt safe”, “people were given appropriate information and support regarding their care and treatment” and “we observed staff talking with people in a respectful manner”.

Sue Smith, Executive Chief Nurse for the Trust, welcomed the CQC reports.

“Work was already taking place to address the issues, and further work has taken place since the inspection,” she said.

“We are also beginning to use a measurement of the illness of patients we are treating to ensure that in the long term our staffing meets the needs of our patients.

“We have been actively recruiting to posts and since January 2013 we have successfully recruited 135 more nurses and midwives than have left us. We will continue to proactively recruit.

“The CQC are due to return to the Trust at the beginning of February as part of their

programme of inspections of all Trusts across the country and this will give us a further opportunity to demonstrate the progress the Trust has made since the end of 2012.

“I would like to personally thank all the staff involved in the services inspected for

their hard work and for ensuring that we continue to provide safe care across all of

our hospitals.

“The Trust Board priority is for our patients to receive safe, high quality clinical care

and we will work hard to ensure this continues to be delivered.”