AN “urgent” review of patient safety is under way at Stafford Hospital due to serious staff shortages - which managers fear will only get worse over the summer.
Inspectors from health regulator the Care Quality Commission are due at the hospital in the next few days, after being called in by the trust special administrators (TSA) in charge of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.
But Support Stafford Hospital campaigners accused the TSA of “incompetence” and said they feared the latest move was a covert attempt to strip the hospital of services and circumvent two judicial reviews of government decisions on the future of the trust.
The TSA flagged up concerns with the CQC this week over the “fragility” of services, due to “constant” recruitment problems.
Figures presented to hospital bosses recently showed that the trust was struggling to recruit consultants, with a staggering 26.7 per cent of permanent posts vacant - though locum cover had managed to bring the vacancy rate down to just over seven per cent.
Nursing vacancies are running at over 11 per cent of permanent staff.
Mid Staffs deputy chief executive Jeff Crawshaw said staffing problems were expected to worsen in the summer, with emergency surgery and radiology particularly hard hit. The trust was finding it difficult to recruit new staff as well as “continuing to lose staff”.
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy told the Newsletter the latest problems “must not be used as an under the table excuse to get rid of services”.
“The one key point that I have been making consistently and will make again to the CQC and the TSA is that the TSA’s final report, signed off by Monitor and the Secretary of State, clearly states which services are to be provided at Stafford,” Mr Lefroy said.
“These must not be compromised in the long term and everything must be done to ensure that all those services are delivered safely.”
He said he was “urgently seeking further information about the role that the CQC will be undertaking”. Mr Lefroy also attacked the decision to postpone the merger of Stafford with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire Trust until November, saying there was no reason why it could not go through on the first day Parliament resumed sitting in mid October.
Support Stafford Hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Porter said staff shortages were no worse than elsewhere in the NHS.
“This looks to us like an attempt by the TSA to get the CQC to do their dirty work and move services out of Stafford,” she said.