Huddersfield and Halifax hospitals to recruit new nurses to meet safe staffing levels

The hospitals now plans to spend £1.5m to recruit 70 full-time, qualified nurses across the two sites, with an ongoing cost of £2m per year

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley

Hospital chiefs are set to spend millions more on nurses in a bid to meet safe staffing levels imposed by the NHS.

But the move comes as the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) says it needs to save £20m by the end of the financial year.

Nursing directors at the trust have admitted that some wards do not always meet minimum nurse to patient ratios, especially when staff are off sick or on maternity leave.

Figures for April reveal there were more than 1,200 shifts (40%) across Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital where there were fewer nurses than recommended.

Wards that struggled the most included acute and complex care wards, where more than 50% of shifts were deemed understaffed in the morning and at night.

Following the Francis inquiry into patient safety, NHS England has said there should be on average one nurse for every eight beds.

Nurse to patient ratios are due to be published on each ward and on the NHS Choices website as part of a bid to reassure the public following the excessive deaths scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital.

The requirements are different depending on the ward, with some, such as critically ill babies, demanding one-to-one care.

CHFT now plans to spend £1.5m to recruit 70 full-time, qualified nurses across the two sites, with an ongoing cost of £2m per year.

At the trust’s monthly board meeting, deputy director of nursing, Jackie Murphy, admitted it was a “struggle to recruit nurses”.

She said: “It’s well established that nurse staffing levels make a difference in terms of outcome but we’ve never had any guidance until now.

“We’re asked to have a 1:8 ratio on day shifts but there’s still no numbers for night shifts.

“I think it’s wrong to look at this just as nurse numbers, but we have some work to do.”

CHFT executives agreed to make the extra cash available but told nursing chiefs to cut back the £7m bill on agency staff, overtime and the use of bank nurses, staff who sign up for extra shifts.

Chairman of the board, Andrew Haigh, said: “Last year we massively overspent on agency and bank. Agency and bank spend has to be managed better.

“If we’re going to do this we need to know that will reduce, that’s part of the deal.”

Chief executive Owen Williams said it was something they hadn’t planned for but they would “just have to get on with it”.

Finance chief Keith Griffiths admitted the extra money would hit the cost cutting plans and affect the hospitals’ restructure proposals.

He said: “We’re looking to manage care outside of hospitals not just perpetuate the workforce.”

The struggle to recruit nurses in Huddersfield and Halifax is being felt all over West Yorkshire.

Last month managers at Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust, which runs Dewsbury and District Hospital, said they were hoping to recruit 160 new nurses, 60 of which would be from Spain.

A spokeswoman for CHFT said they would not be looking to Spain for their new staff.

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