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Bedford Hospital receives ‘requires improvement’ rating from CQC over staffing concerns

Bedford Hospital has become the latest hospital to receive a ‘requires improvement’ rating from the CQC, with particular concerns raised about staffing shortages and problems with patient safety.

Inspectors found that in November 2015 Bedford Hospital NHS Trust’s average vacancy rate was 6%, above the target of 5%, and the average use of bank and agency nurses was 13%.

The report raises particular concerns about the impact of nursing shortages on the paediatrics department, saying it led to shifts where no nurses had Intermediate Paediatric Life Support training.

Nina Fraser, director of nursing and patient services at the trust, said: “We have already taken action to mitigate against these issues to ensure learning is seen as integral to delivering an excellent patient experience.”

There is an average 9% vacancy rate for nurses and 7% for doctors across the NHS as a whole, and reliance on agency staff is widespread despite the introduction of a cap.

As of November 2015, Bedford also had a £13.6m deficit, higher than the £11.6m forecast.

Overall, Bedford was rated as ‘requires improvement’ for being safe, effective, responsive and well-led, and ‘good’ for providing a caring service.

The report also found high pressure on services. Bed occupancy rates at the hospital averaged 95%, when 85% is generally accepted as the maximum level that can be reached before patient safety is affected.

However, the hospital met the 95% target for A&E patients seen within four hours, which the NHS as a whole is a failing to do, according to the most recent figures.

Other areas of concern raised by CQC inspectors were difficulties ensuring patients’ dignity and privacy, including medical staff discussing cases where they could be overheard, and a cluster of safety incidents at the maternity unit, which it said staff could not demonstrate that they had learned from, and failures to assess patients’ mental capacity in line with the Mental Capacity Act 2015.

However, it also highlighted areas where the trust performed well, including using Endovascular stent-grafts for popliteal aneurysms instead of open surgery and facilities designed to meet the needs of patients with dementia.

Stephen Conroy, chief executive of the hospital, said: “I welcome this report as a measure of how we are doing and it validates the hard work and improvements our staff have made over the recent years. We deliver excellent care and treatment to all our patients and their families in their time of need and I am committed to implement improvements as highlighted by the CQC.”

The latest CQC figures show that nearly two-thirds of NHS trusts have received the ‘requires improvement’ rating.

(Image c. Chris Radburn from PA Archive/ Press Association Images)


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