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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cumbrian hospital beds hit by staff shortages

NEW beds cannot open yet due to a shortage of nurses at the Cumberland Infirmary.

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Jeremy Rushmer: ‘Safe, sustainable services’

A wider staffing crisis is causing serious concerns for bosses, with problems recruiting both doctors and nurses in Carlisle and Whitehaven.

From Monday, the Maple C elderly care ward will move to a former pre-assessment unit on Maple A, adding five new beds. However, plans to open a further 12 new orthopedic beds in their place have been delayed, possibly until April, due to a staffing shortage. The trust is having to rely heavily on expensive locum doctors to fill gaps left by a high number of consultants leaving and retiring. Its medical director has warned that a shortage of doctors at the West Cumberland Hospital is leaving some of its services “vulnerable”,

Problems in Whitehaven have been exacerbated as a result of concerns from the local Deanery, which supplies medical trainees.

It wants these individuals removed from the West Cumberland to complete their work in Carlisle. It is then likely to agree to a request for three more trainees, but will add to rota pressures out west.

In a report to the board of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, medical director Jeremy Rushmer said: “Staffing issues at the West Cumberland have given me cause for concern.

“Whilst the new posts would stabilise medical admissions at the Cumberland Infirmary they put further strain on West Cumberland Hospital, and further need to recruit.

“It is likely that overall this will further place financial pressures on the trust and make acute medicine at the West Cumberland Hospital more vulnerable.

“I have prioritised recruitment of permanent medical middle grades at West Cumberland Hospital, although it remains to be seen if this recruitment is possible.”

The cost of locums is also putting significant strain on already tight budgets, although new contracts are being in to try and address these spiralling costs.

In nursing, bosses are calling on bank staff, or existing nurses working extra hours and overtime, to ensure wards are properly manned.

However, the trust has just agreed to receive two intakes of student nurses from University Of Cumbria every year, instead of one. Bosses say this will result in more nurses being trained and hopefully staying in the area in the long term.

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