Questions over Leeds hospitals staffing from councillors

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councillors have quizzed Leeds hospital bosses over staff shortages after criticisms from the NHS watchdog.

Members of Leeds City Council’s Health Scrutiny Board questioned why action had not been taken sooner after chiefs said they were aware of the issues likely to be highlighted.

However directors at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said they were working to improve staffing levels, but this took time.

Investment of £6m will fund 427 more nurses, though the trust has admitted it intends to end this financial year in deficit.

As reported in July, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out the largest ever inspection of Leeds hospital services.

They found both Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital “required improvement”, with concerns that staff shortages could be affecting patient care.

The trust was told improvements must be made in 15 areas and councillors discussed progress against an action plan drawn up in response.

Chief nurse Suzanne Hinchliffe told the meeting that inspectors did not flag up any areas of concern which were not already known about.

But Coun Billy Flynn (Con, Adel and Wharfedale) said: “If you knew these things were wrong, then why wasn’t something done earlier?”

Prof Hinchliffe said action was being taken: “For nurse staffing levels, this is a national problem.

“We had put in an active programme in place to recruit nurses but the supply is not there.”

She said they had previously closed beds to ensure patient safety.

“It’s the logistics of waiting for staff to become qualified,” she added.

Prof Hinchliffe said they had put significant efforts into recruiting nurses but added they would not be at optimum staffing levels until “mid next year”.

Craig Brigg, director of quality, said staffing problems had been highlighted in CQC reports at other hospitals.

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