Western Trust says nurse vacancies ‘presents challenges’

The Western Trust has confirmed that nursing vacancies ‘presents challenges across some of our wards.’

Tuesday, 21st May 2019, 11:18 am
RCN board members at a public meeting in the Guildhall.

Responding to concerns raised at a public meeting last week, a spokesperson for the Trust said there are currently around 80 nurse vacancies across their hospital sites.

The meeting, organised by the Royal College of Nursing, was attended by local nurses, employed in both hospital and community settings, trainee nurses, elected representatives and members of the public.

It was organised to discuss safe staffing and the nurses’ pay ‘crisis’.

The RCN held a number of similar public meetings across the North last week.

Nurses in the North are paid less than anywhere else in the UK and the union is asking for pay parity.

If the situation is not resolved, the RCN may take the unprecedented step of balloting their members for industrial action.

The meeting provided the RCN with an opportunity to gauge public opinion about this.

Addresses were given by Deputy Director of RCN Northern Ireland, Garrett Martin, Fiona Devlin, chair of the RCN Northern Ireland Board and local RCN board member Andrew Doherty.

Mr Doherty, who is also a local nurse, made reference to the recent closure of 10 beds in an acute respiratory ward as a result of nurse shortages.

He also said that there was an acute medical ward which had just three nurses on during one shift.

Concerns were raised by RCN members that they do not have time to deliver basic care needs to their patients and that medicines may be delayed or procedures may not be done because there are not enough nurses on the ward.

They also raised concerns about beds being closed and a constant fear of making mistakes because they are so over stretched.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “In line with the Department of Health’s “Delivering Care Nurse Staffing” policy, it is normal practice for all Health and Social Care Trusts to routinely monitor staffing levels including the nurse to bed ratio which is measured against the numbers of available staff.

“Bed numbers can therefore be scaled up or down as appropriate. Further considerations include patient dependency alongside a range of safety and quality of care indicators which provides the Trust with an overall picture throughout the hospital sites.

The spokesperson added: “The Trust utilises an electronic rostering system, which enables us to monitor gaps and we utilise bank and agency staff to supplement team numbers as appropriate.”

In figures provided by the RCN, it was revealed that the Western Trust spent over £3,500,000 on agency nurses in 2017/2018.

The union estimates this figure would pay for an additional 157 newly-qualified registered nurses.