The Princess Alexandra Hospital’s emergency department has been rated ‘requires improvement’ after patients’ safety was deemed to be compromised by an ‘insufficient’ level of staff.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an unannounced inspection of the department in February in response to “concerning information” the national care watchdog had received in relation to the care of patients.

In a report published on March 31, CQC inspectors said staffing levels were “not sufficient”.

Inspectors said the department did not always have enough nursing staff with the right qualifications, skills, training and experience to keep patients safe from avoidable harm.

On the day of inspection, the day rota fill rate was 93 per cent for nursing staff and 90 per cent for healthcare assistants.

Inspectors said: “The department had 25 vacant posts for junior nurses and five for senior nurses. However, this was linked to the increased number of posts allocated to the department after the staffing levels review which took places in 2019.”

The emergency department, previously rated ‘requires improvement in March 2019, was found to be reliant on temporary medical staff.

The staff inspectors spoke with said some of the temporary staff who had worked in the department did not always have sufficient clinical experience or skills.

Inspectors wrote: “They felt this could potentially put patients at risk during out of hours and that this negatively affected staff morale. We were not aware of any reported incidents which would be directly linked to the use of temporary staff in the emergency department.”

Staff were however praised for their “compassionate and caring attitude.”

CQC reported most staff spoke positively about the service and were proud to work for the trust.

Lance McCarthy, chief executive, The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said:

“I am pleased that the CQC has recognised the positive culture of the emergency department (ED) team and the support they give each other and how much they value each other.

“We know that there are areas where we need to continue to put improvements in place and we have an established improvement action plan that remains a key focus for us all.

“I am proud of our ED team and their commitment and focus on providing high quality care to our patients, which is especially the situation they are responding to right now in their role as our frontline team for the care of patients with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19).”

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