A SHORTAGE of nurses poses the biggest risk to the county’s hospital services in the future health chiefs have warned.
Over the next two years the West Midlands will have 1,200 fewer nurses than it needs to meet demand and bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust say they are already feeling the impact with difficulties recruiting.
There are particular problems in neonatal services, Ward 11 at the Alex, Avon 4 and AMU at the Worcestershire Royal and there is also a shortage of midwives with the Trust having only one for every 30 to 31 births, against a national standard of one in 28.
Nationally there is a shortage of British nurses because of cuts to training places and the number of nurses reaching retirement age.
Retaining staff is also an issue, particularly at the Alexandra Hospital as uncertainty continues around the future of A&E, maternity and paediatric services.
The Trust has turned to overseas nurses to try and fill the gap but some have left because of home sickness while there is an issue with training as the effective discharging of patients is a bigger focus in the NHS than health systems abroad.
The pressure may be eased by a reduction in bed numbers as a result of plans to treat more people in the community which would mean less nurses would be required.
However, there are doubts about how successful those plans will be and whether it will result in a reduction in nurses or their roles and responsibilities simply change.
Trust chief operating officer Stewart Messer warned a board meeting last Wednesday (April 30), talk of reductions in the nursing workforce and uncertainty around the hospital reconfiguration project risked driving more staff to seek work in neighbouring Birmingham.
Trust chairman Harry Turner added: “Talk to the wards and they say recruitment is the big issue, getting people into posts and the time it takes to get somebody and we need to look at that.
“We can’t pay them any more but what we have got to do is look after them when we have got them.
“It’s the biggest risk because without them we simply can’t deliver.”