WORKFORCE: Staff shortages at St George’s Hospital in Stafford have raised concerns that it is unable to provide care that adequately meets patients’ needs, a Care Quality Inspection has found.

The unannounced inspection of a number of acute wards at the site, run by South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, was triggered after the CQC received a whistleblowing letter from a member of hospital staff.

The letter raised concerns over staffing levels and the impact on staff and patient experience, alongside worries over visible leadership and support, a trust spokesman told HSJ.

The FT was found to have breached a regulation to provide sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, competent, skilled and experienced staff to meet the needs of the people using the service.

Staff on one ward told inspectors that morale was low, with staff feeling tired and stressed due to “staff shortages and working excessive hours”, according to the CQC inspection report, published last month.

The CQC report said: “Staff told us that there were often staff shortages which resulted in staff being unable to provide care that met patients’ needs adequately.

“Safer staffing daily reports on [the Chebsey Ward] were indicating level of risk on staffing levels. This was on the trust’s risk register and vacancies were being recruited to.”

The inspections focused on the Chebsey and Brocton wards, which are both 20 bed, mixed gender acute mental health wards.

Hospital staff told inspectors that it was difficult to facilitate nurse and nursing assistant led activities because there were not enough staff on duty.

In both wards inspectors also found that there were no readily available safety alarms in place to call for help.

Despite these concerns the facilities were found to be well equipped. Staff were kind and caring towards their patients, the report said.

The hospital was also praised for having an effective way of reporting incidents, near misses and never events.

A trust spokesman said: “The requirement to improve the safety alarm system for staff is being addressed by a general ward refurbishment programme.

“Staffing levels was also raised as a concern and the trust board recognises [the need] for more work in this area, particularly where there are issues posed by individual patients requiring more intensive care or high levels of observation.”

Trust chief operating officer Alison Bussey said: “We are actively recruiting to vacancies and have also recently established a new internal ‘nurse bank’ service which is helping to improve flexibility and responsiveness to staffing needs.”