A Southend campaign group has described a ‘toxic’ situation in terms of staffing numbers and management indifference within Southend University Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department. The group, Save Our Southend NHS issued a statement on their Facebook page, highlighting a number of concerns.
The campaign group said: “Medical staff at Southend Hospital’s A&E say the department is falling apart and the lack of staff is making it unsafe to work. The doctors are getting no teaching or training, so they have started to leave, and there are serious concerns for safe staffing beyond July 2022.”
Southend Hospital in The Echo
Similar concerns have also been reported in The Echo newspaper, with an A&E nurse telling the paper she felt compelled to walk away from Southend Hospital because a staffing crisis meant she was unable to give patients the care they needed.
The senior nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed there has been a mass exodus across the hospital’s A&E department, with 14 nurses and six doctors resigning in the last three months.
The nurse, who has been working in the profession for 20 years, said: “It is dreadful. People are going every day – nurses, healthcare support workers; people have just had enough. We are not able to give the care we should be giving. People are sitting on ambulances up to eight hours, even 12 hours. We can’t ventilate them on an ambulance.”
Ambulance waiting times high
The issues with Ambulance waiting times at the beleaguered hospital was also highlighted in May of this year, when Southend West’s new MP Anna Firth held talks with Health Secretary Sajid Javid about long queues of ambulances forming outside Southend Hospital on a regular basis.
Her concerns echo the findings of a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report into the hospital, which also looked into other hospitals managed by the trust.
Southend Hospital is part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust which runs Basildon, Southend and Broomfield hospitals. The trust was formed in April 2020 during the Pandemic, as three separate hospital trusts merged. Between them they have a total of 15,000 staff and 1,800 inpatient beds.
Research for the report was conducted in August 2021 and was published in December. It found the Hospital “required improvement”overall, especially in the areas concerning whether the hospital is ‘Safe’, ‘Responsive’, and, ‘Well Led’.
Report: Southend Hospital is mixed picture
Philippa Styles, the Care Quality Commission’s head of hospital inspection, said at the time of the report they “found a mixed picture” of positive improvements and areas of concern.
“Following the trust’s formation in 2020, leaders should now be able to work together effectively to ensure care is consistent across all services,” she said.
“I recognise the enormous pressure NHS services are under… and that usual expectations cannot always be maintained, especially in the urgent and emergency department, but it is important they do all they can to mitigate risks to patient safety.”
The findings included:
- patients had not always been protected from harm
- staff had not all received mandatory training
- there had been nine “never-should-happen” medical events
- records were sometimes inaccurate and not kept securely
- nursing and medical staffing was a “challenge across the trust”, with shifts regularly below planned staffing numbers
- there had been a high number of whistleblowers raising concerns
Southend Hospital CEO: “Positive findings”
In response to the CQC report, Chief Executive of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust Clare Panniker said: “There are some extremely positive findings in this report, and I’d like to thank our extraordinary staff for continuing to provide such high quality care to our patients.
“We merged to become one of the largest Trusts in the country in the middle of a global pandemic, at the most challenging time the NHS has ever known. To be rated as Good for care and for providing effective services is a real achievement.
“We are fully aware of the key issues and are continuing to address these. On-going staffing issues have a significant impact and we’re working tirelessly to increase permanent staffing levels.”
In response to the Save our Southend NHS accusations, a spokesman for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust told The Echo, “Staffing levels in A&E are reviewed regularly throughout the day to ensure that patients are receiving the best possible care. There have been many improvements made throughout the department since the Care Quality Commission visit last year. Whilst there are still some challenges, such as staff recruitment, these are being addressed with clear plans in place.”
It is fair to say that any change in an organisation, especially a merger, does require time for all the changes and benefits to be visible – especially in the NHS and in the wake of Covid-19. It is also true that the one area where patients do not necessarily have a lot of time, is when they arrive at Accident and Emergency. Based on these reports, perhaps time is running out.
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