WORKFORCE: North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust is launching a recruitment campaign to address a staff shortage which has affected its ability to train junior doctors.

At its board meeting last week the troubled trust revealed three junior doctors at its West Cumberland Hospital had been removed by Health Education North East because of concerns of a “lack of available clinical supervision”.

HENE judged the trust was no longer able to support the trainees following the resignation of three consultants. The trainees are now completing their training elsewhere in the region.

A further three trainees remain at the hospital but HENE is keeping the situation under review and may also remove them if it does not think they are being adequately protected.

There is currently a 25 per cent vacancy rate in North Cumbria’s consultancy posts, equating to about 50 people.

Yesterday the trust announced the appointment of three locum doctors to provide “immediate support to nursing and medical teams at West Cumberland Hospital”, as well as the appointment of a permanent speciality doctor, who joins in July.

In last week’s board meeting papers the trust also said it was concerned about nurse staffing at West Cumberland, with “daily monitoring” of staffing levels required.

The trust has invested £1m to create a further 12 nurse practitioner roles at the hospital, with the new staff set to begin in September.

North Cumbria was one of 11 hospital providers put into special measures last summer following a review of trusts with persistently high mortality indicators conducted by NHS England’s medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh.

The review found inadequate nurse and medical staffing levels at the trust as well as an “overreliance on locum appointments”.

Of the eight middle grade doctors working at registrar level who will be in place at West Cumberland following the trust’s latest appointments, seven will be locums.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, North Cumbria’s medical director, said: “Whilst these locum appointments are an interim measure and clearly not a long term solution, we are nevertheless very pleased to have secured the provision of services at West Cumberland Hospital so quickly.

“Recruitment of permanent consultants and doctors remains a challenging issue for us but one that we are determined to do all that we can to conquer.”

He added that the trust would next week start a “widespread recruitment campaign to make sure we are taking every possible step to recruit the best possible candidates into the vacant positions across our hospitals.”