staff shortages at the two main hospitals in Leeds have been criticised by NHS inspectors.
Bosses at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have been ordered to make improvements to patient safety after the biggest ever inspection of services by officials from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
A 70-strong team visited Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital in March, part of the health watchdog’s new regime of inspections.
A report published today says both hospitals must improve, while the city’s smaller hospitals - Chapel Allerton and Seacroft in Leeds and Wharfedale in Otley - were rated as ‘good’.
England’s chief inspector of hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said a change in hospital leadership had led to a culture shift, but added: “However I am concerned that shortages of doctors and nurses in some departments areas may affect patient care. While there have been moves to improve the recruit process, this needs to be given greater priority.
“While we found staff to be caring and compassionate, we also found that opportunities to improve the safety culture and quality of services were missed as good practice and learning from incidents was not always shared as it should.”
The CQC team, including doctors, nurses, NHS managers and members of the public, spent several days at the city’s hospitals in March, also carrying out an unnannounced inspection.
It said at LGI and St James’s there were “inadequate levels of staff, both nursing and medical in some areas, particularly out of hours’ medical cover and anaesthetist availability”.
The report added: “Nurse staffing levels on the children’s wards were identified as a risk and regularly fell below expected minimum levels, which placed staff under increased stress and pressure.”
Hospitals were found to be clean, with caring staff and patients were generally positive. There was also praise for nine areas of outstanding practice, including a specialist eye condition clinic, the Disablement Service Centre at Seacroft Hospital and work to prevent unnecessary admissions of older people.
But trust managers were told improvements must be made in 15 areas, including to “ensure there are sufficient qualified and experienced nursing and medical staff particularly on the medical elderly care wards children’s wards and surgical wards, including anaesthetist availability and medical cover out of hours and weekends.”
Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals, “We welcome the detailed feedback provided by this report, in particular that across all of our hospitals, services are caring and effective. We are pleased that the inspectors recognise the constructive steps we have already taken, such as investing in more clinical staff, and having dedicated safeguarding arrangements.
“We acknowledge there are areas in which we still need to make progress more quickly and we have plans in place to make this happen but the improvements we have already made are good foundations on which to build.”
He said they were taking action including employing more than 400 new nurses from September, ensuring all staff were up to date with training and had already improved the process of handovers between staff.
Tanya Matilainen, director of independent patient watchdog Healthwatch Leeds, said: “The key issues that have been identified as needing improvement, such as staff shortages and better training provisions are now being addressed by the Trust.
“It is heartening to see that the inspectors have identified clear and consistent communication from management to staff and we are optimistic that this improved guidance and clarity will help to ensure that the trust continues to implement improvements across all areas of its patient care.”