Staff levels have never put patients at risk: NGH

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The head of nursing at Northampton General Hospital has slammed claims that inspectors had labelled the trust “dangerously understaffed”.

The Sunday Telegraph named NGH in a list of 17 English hospitals it said had been found by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to be putting patients at risk through low staffing levels.

But Suzie Loader, the director of nursing, said the list, which was compiled by the Labour party, should not have included NGH as the inspectors had only ‘moderate’ concerns after their inspection in July, rather than ‘major’ concerns.

She said: “Northampton General puts patient safety at the top of all that it does and refutes any implication that it has put patients at major risk as a result of staff shortages.

“Following the CQC inspection in July 2012, the CQC identified that it had, in its terms, ‘moderate concerns’ about staffing levels at NGH and not ‘major concerns’.

“The CQC report also noted the hospital had an active recruitment plan in place to rectify gaps in staffing.”

NGH said that since April 2012, the hospital has recruited 301 nurses and healthcare assistants from across the UK, Ireland, Spain and Portugal

It said it would have been close to 100 per cent staffing levels but has had to reopen two wards, closed because of its money saving drive, because of high numbers of admissions.

In the meantime, it is bringing in bank staff and agency staff when necessary.

Mrs Loader added: “However, we are aiming to achieve full establishment by spring 2013.”

Under the heading ‘There should be enough members of staff to keep people safe and meet their health and welfare needs’, the original CQC report said: “The provider was not compliant with this standard. We judged that this had a moderate impact on people using the service and action was needed for this essential standard.

“The provider did not always protect people against the risks associated with not having sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet the individual needs of patients.”