Rise in hospital staff absences due to high pressure

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THE trust which runs St Richard’s Hospital is working to improve staff well-being after the prolonged period of winter pressure led to an increase in absences.

As reported in the Observer, Western Sussex Hospitals Trust has fought back from a position which saw only 82.5 per cent of patients seen in Accident and Emergency within four hours in December, to one of the best performing trusts in the country.

In the first quarter, from January to March, the performance figure was 95.87, putting it amongst only a handful of trusts to hit the government’s 95 per cent target.

But at a recent board meeting non-executive director Martin Phillips raised concerns surrounding staff absence, after it rose to a year high of 4.9 per cent in January.

Trust governor Barbara Porter said: “It’s not surprising that the staff are beginning to feel the strain because of the very high level of pressure they have been working under for so long now.

“I have to say, having been a patient myself last year, they are giving their all, every single one.

“We also can’t ignore that there has been some pretty horrible viruses around.”

The trust faced unprecedented demand in services over the winter period, with both its A&E units at Chichester and Worthing being placed on black alert over Christmas.

Chief executive Marianne Griffiths said the trust still faced a shortage of around 120 staff.

A recruitment campaign for registered nurses on March 25 had 30 applicants and the trust plans to take on 100 to 120 nurses from the Philippines via a recruitment drive set to begin next month.

Mrs Porter told the meeting, held at Worthing Hospital on Thursday, April 2: “My experience with any nurses from abroad has been nothing but positive. They are made very welcome here. There’s a strong and vibrant Filipino community along the coastal strip.”

Ms Griffiths added: “Obviously we are recruiting. That is one of the main responses.

“We have to have bodies. It isn’t that we haven’t wanted that, we simply couldn’t get them and agencies couldn’t find them. It’s really a massive issue out there.

“I think staff need to know you’re doing something helpful. It doesn’t fix the immediate problem but it helps in morale terms.

“Our staff have given so much. They have been fantastic and worked all the hours God sends.”

There was praise for the outcome of the trust’s first Schwartz Round, held in February.

The engagement meetings provides staff from both clinical and administrative backgrounds the opportunity to talk about the emotional and social challenges they face at work.