“I would never let my own relatives come here,” were the worrying words of a Grantham Hospital employee, who has contacted the Journal to voice his concerns.
The call revealed how low morale has fallen among some staff, as they strive to provide care to patients in the face of increasing financial pressure and a limited workforce.
This anonymous caller, who disclosed his name and job role which we are not revealing to protect his identity, said: “There are call bells going off all the time that aren’t answered. Talk to any of the staff here and they will tell you the same. I would never let my own relatives come here.”
Another Grantham Hospital employee got in touch via the Journal’s Facebook page to highlight how, despite the trying circumstances, she and her colleagues are working extra hard to provide patients with the best possible care.
“I, for one, am very proud to be part of an amazing team,” said Karen Newton. “Nothing is ever perfect, it can’t be – we are simply human beings doing the best we can in less than the best of circumstances.
“Before any hospital or trusts get slated, I’d urge you to consider the pressures placed upon staff. We answer bells when we can, we help and assist when and where we can. It’s easy for people to see and misjudge why bells are going unanswered and circumstances are far from perfect, however I’d ask you to consider the healthcare staff who miss out on breaks, and leave later than their shift time should finish, unpaid as it’s our time management, and all because we’re putting patients needs before our own.
“We come home tired and hungry, and often disheartened as we couldn’t do more, or our best wasn’t good enough that day, or we’ll be in trouble for failing yet another paper trail audit.
“The NHS runs on an awful lot of goodwill and it’s about time that was recognised. Without this goodwill the system would have collapsed years ago!”
The latest report by the Care Care Quality Commission rated Grantham Hospital – run by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) – as ‘good’, but an NHS staff survey published last year actually included a question asking them to rate how much they agreed with the statement: ‘If a friend or relative needed treatment I would be happy with the standard of care provided by this organisation’. Only 42 per cent of ULHT staff who responded agreed with this, below the national average of 47 per cent. Ten per cent of ULHT’s respondents said they disagreed, and three per cent strongly disagreed.
Highlighting these results, and responding to the criticism made by the ULHT employee, spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing in the East Midlands Tim Baggs said: “It’s important that staff who are concerned about the quality or safety of patient care or the impact of staffing shortages feel able to raise those concerns with managers, and it’s a reasonable expectation that those concerns will be taken seriously and acted upon.”
He added: “We would expect the trust to be paying attention to those results.
“Like most hospitals trusts, ULHT is having to contend with a shortage in the supply of nurses nationally. Too few nurses means patients may not receive care or assistance when they really need it, and this is as frustrating and upsetting for nurses as it is for patients and their families.”
As with many across the country, ULHT has been holding recruitment drives to try and fill vacancies and reduce its dependency on agency staff. It has also gone abroad to recruit, and recently recruited 131 Filipino nurses having previously hired nurses from Greece, Spain and Portugal.
Responding to the survey results, ULHT’s director of HR and organisational development Ian Warren said: “We know the staff survey results could be higher, but they are heading in the right direction.
“Since 2014, the scores have improved with staff saying that they are more motivated, better engaged and less likely to be stressed through work.
“At ULHT, we directly act on the feedback from staff. The national staff survey is just one way in which we seek the views of staff. We carry out a pulse check survey every quarter and in September we launched ‘ULH Way’ to engage and motivate staff in their teams, and our new CEO recently held listening events. Along with the national staff survey, we use these more detailed methods to identify areas where we can focus on improving the working lives of our staff and improving patient services.”
Staff members’ comments have also been brought to the attention of Grantham MP Nick Boles. In a Journal column last month, he said: “I want ULHT to succeed and will work with it to develop new and improved services at Grantham Hospital.
“But if ULHT does not share our vision for the future of healthcare in Grantham or is not able to deliver it, then I will be calling up Simon Stevens [chief executive of NHS England] and asking him to transfer control of Grantham Hospital to local GP commissioners so that we can give the people of Grantham the modern multi-purpose hospital they deserve.”
This week, Mr Boles told the Journal: “Grantham Hospital has the best safety record of any of the three hospitals in ULHT and most of the people who contact me after they have received treatment there sing the praises of the staff and tell me they received excellent care.
“ULHT has a responsibility to keep the community informed about any problems at Grantham Hospital and I will do everything in my power to make sure they live up to it.”
A recent outbreak of the norovirus at Grantham Hospital has added to staffing pressures.
Michelle Rhodes, director of nursing, said: “Grantham Hospital currently has a few staff off work with norovirus. However, the numbers are not high.
“At times on all our wards, staffing can be challenging, and there is no doubt that they are very busy, but we have been able to maintain safe staffing levels on both wards affected by norovirus. The matrons review the staffing for each shift at least three times each day, and also plan ahead for weekends, and will move staff from ward to ward where needed to ensure there are the right number of nurses for the patients.
“Remaining shortages are filled by ULHT bank staff, and agency staff. These reviews of staffing levels are also closely monitored and scrutinised each day by heads of nursing, and any unresolved issues are escalated to senior managers.
“We have established processes in place for staff to raise any concerns they may have and actively encourage this. Where we know there are any issues we will respond and address them.
“We would like to reassure our patients and their families that our staffing levels are regularly reviewed and are safe and that if they have any worries or concerns they can raise these with ward staff or with our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).”
Lots of readers have responded on our Facebook page to the issues at Grantham Hospital highlighted on page 5 of today’s edition of the Grantham Journal, including many who conversely were full of praise for the care being provided in difficult circumstances.
Carl Gregory said: “They do a great job under extreme pressures that have been put upon them. Yes, it’s not great service all the time, but they do the best they can in the situation.”
His feelings were echoed by Anne Potter, who said: “I’ve had numerous stays in Grantham hospital, nearly all positive - I just think they need more staff.”
Likewise, Danny Smith added: “Brilliant hospital and staff - it needs more investment, more staff and more support from the government.”
Others shared some difficult recent experiences, that demonstrated the high level of care being provided at Grantham Hospital. “Had my mum in hospital for five weeks before she passed and have to say they were amazing with her,” said Sharran Fahey. “Yes very under staffed but ones that were there really were amazing with my mum’s care, especially on the hospice ward.”
Daniel Passenger said: “It is an amazing hospital. You’re treated like family there and not a number. I have had cancer treatment at Grantham, Boston, Lincoln and Notts, and I have got to say a million times over Grantham trumps everyone.”
n ULHT will hold a recruitment open day tomorrow (Saturday), at Lincoln County Hospital, to give people the chance to find out about working at there and at Grantham, Boston and Louth.