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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Cumbrian hospitals trust lifts freeze on new staff

A recruitment freeze has been lifted, as north Cumbrian hospitals interview for extra staff.

The trust which runs the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, has been criticised in the past for its use of agency staff – racking up high bills.

In October the North Cumbria University NHS Hospitals Trust board approved a move to lift a ban on recruiting permanent staff, after hearing about the “rapid rise” in costs for agency workers.

A report showed it has spent £4.4m on agency staff in the year to September – compared with the £2.8m spent in the same period last year.

A source later told the News & Star that a large number of nurses invited to interview are “not turning up”, something they fear could be down to the reputation of the “failing” trust.

However, the trust insists that newly-qualified nurses frequently apply for a number of jobs simultaneously and so can be offered a job before their interview date. A spokes-woman said this was “par for the course”, and this recruitment session had been no worse than any other.

Neil Anderson, a staff nurse who is also a Royal College of Nursing representative and the new staffside chair of the Trust Partnership Forum, said: “The new management are making a lot of positive proposals that should, if implemented, go a long way to restoring confidence in the trust, and, more importantly, will deliver high quality care for patients.

“The unions are already seeing important progress. For example, we welcome the reversal of the previous policy of freezing recruitment and the reintroduction of permanent contracts for staff at all levels within the trust.” He added: “This is a move in the right direction and should improve patient safety.

“After a very difficult few years, patients and staff should be more optimistic about the future of our trust.”

Damian Gallagher, director of human resources and organisational development, said: “We have been recruiting staff nurses and health care assistants at both the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, and have had a good response rate.

“We have had some problems recruiting in the past, particularly to consultant roles, but we are confident this will improve with the acquisition by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.”

The Cumbrian trust is being taken over by Northumbria as a result of long-running financial difficulties. The acquisition was due to take place by April 1, 2013, but has been delayed again after the economic situation deteriorated even further.

Unions have called for it to be completed as “swiftly as possible”.

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