Trust staffing levels under constant review

Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).
Altnagelvin Hospital's A &E entrance (right).

The Western Trust has been forced to review nurse staffing in all areas at least three times a day due to increased attendances at its Emergency Departments, local health chiefs have confirmed.

A Trust spokesperson has told the ‘Journal’ that staff had to be moved to provide additional support in some areas.

The Trust was speaking as newly released figures showed that over the Christmas week, from December 24 to January 1, there was 1,607 attendances at Altnagelvin’s Emergency Department.

In this same time period, there were 56 patients who waited over 12 hours in the department.

The figures were released as health chiefs in the North warned that Emergency Departments across the region continue to experience significant pressures.

Speaking about the local situation, the Western Trust spokesperson said: “At times, during recent weeks, we have had to increase the number of beds in our hospitals, due to the increase in attendances to our Emergency Departments and the number of people requiring admission.

“This has resulted in pressure on our nursing resource and required us to review staffing in every area at least three times daily. We have on occasion, moved staff to areas requiring additional support.”

The Western Trust confirmed that it has also been offering nursing staff overtime and “utilised bank and agency staff to assist with the extra demand on our hospitals”.

“We continue to be indebted to staff who often work additional time on shift to support their colleagues,” the spokesperson said.

Unlike elsewhere within the NHS, however, the Western Trust said they have “not sought assistance from St. John’s Ambulance Brigade or asked our staff to cancel annual leave or return from leave.”

“Leave time is booked and approved by Ward Managers who take into consideration holiday periods and the likelihood of increased pressures over the winter period,” the spokeswoman said.

The increase pressures have been attributed to a range of factors including the level of complex and serious conditions, particularly amongst older people and the prevalence of ‘flu and other respiratory conditions.

The HSBC has issued a reminder to the public that they should only attend hospital Emergency Departments for urgent and life threatening conditions.