Nurses at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH), Halifax, have been jumping ship at an increasing rate since December.
This left the trust with 177 full-time nursing and midwifery vacancies (8.8% of all nursing staff) in March, forcing hospital bosses to plug the widening shift gaps with expensive agency staff.
In one ward two out of five nursing positions remained vacant.
And nursing vacancies are expected to increase, hospital chiefs have warned.
Nurses leaving the trust blamed excessive overtime and having to work day and night shifts – in the same week – for their departure.
In their exit interviews nurses complained of being moved from ward to ward – and between the two hospitals – regularly and at short notice.
A lack of training and support together with the pressures from reduced staffing were also cited as the cause of nurses’ departures.
Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust (CHFT), which runs HRI and CRH, has also been struggling to recruit and retain other medical staff, particularly consultants where almost a third (30%) of positions are vacant.
In April, the trust spent over £20m on agency staff, including £6.5m on nurses and £3.5m on consultants.
At a meeting of trust bosses, publicly elected board member George Richardson expressed concern that both hospitals were losing experienced staff.
Mr Richardson said: “Wherever we look we are losing more than we are getting.
“Are we replacing older, knowledgeable well-equipped people with younger, less well-equipped people?”
Mr Richardson added it was ‘worrying’ that nurses were leaving the trust for better paid positions with agencies.
Board member Philip Oldfield added: “We need to understand what is driving our retention issues and why we are unable to recruit.
“If we can’t fill the roles, what sort of roles should we be putting in?”
CHFT Acting Director of Nursing, Lindsay Rudge, said the hospitals’ rostering team had reviewed unreasonable working patterns and introduced a development support sister role to help new starters.
She added an ‘electronic site staffing tool to review staffing levels in real time across both sites’ had been added.