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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Staffing crisis eased at Cumbrian acute hospital

A recruitment crisis at a Cumbrian hospital has been relieved as bosses have filled immediate staffing gaps.

Les Morgan photo
Les Morgan

However it is at an estimated cost of £3.3 million per annum – the money for which has yet to be formally identified by the cash-strapped health trust.

And the situation at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven remains “fragile” with recruitment efforts for permanent doctors continuing and the situation being regularly reviewed.

A call went out across northern hospitals for help to ensure gaps in the medical rota were filled but none could free up any staff due to their own pressures.

However the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust – which runs the hospital – has confirmed that immediate gaps have now been filled with locum doctors.

At yesterday’s trust board meeting, hospital director Les Morgan said a rota was now in place to allow safe care to continue to be delivered 24 hours a day.

And he said: “If we lose a doctor from the rota, the Partnership Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have agreed that they will give us a doctor from their system.”

It follows a recent meeting of all local healthcare organisations to discuss arrangements to sustain acute medical care at the Whitehaven hospital.

There has been problems with recruitment of permanent consultants and speciality doctors – which was highlighted by health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission. It recently rated medical care at West Cumberland Hospital as ‘inadequate’ under safety.

Dr David Rogers, Copeland GP and medical director for Cumbria CCG, said: “Our priority is to ensure that people across Cumbria receive the safest possible services when they become ill. North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust has struggled to recruit doctors in acute medicine to work at West Cumberland Hospital.

“The trust is doing all that it can to recruit extra staff and has even called on support from other neighbouring NHS trusts. It has now confirmed that the immediate gaps in the rota have been filled, mainly with additional locum support. However, the situation remains fragile which is why we now have robust monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that if the staffing situation deteriorates, there are immediate arrangements that can be put in place to ensure the continuity of the service.”

He added: “These arrangements will see us through the short term while longer term plans are developed.”

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, hospitals trust medical director, added: “Although we are continuing with extensive recruitment efforts, the situation with acute medical care at West Cumberland Hospital is increasingly fragile but we now have system-wide actions that can be quickly implemented if need be.

“However, we cannot ignore the inadequate safety rating and continue to work with partners on a longer term plan.”

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