Here at SQ, we know that people are the most important resource that our healthcare system has. Increasing numbers of news stories are highlighting the problems that are being caused when staff are overstretched due to shortages. Today we wanted to share a story that happened close to our South West home. This is the kind of story we want to prevent. By analysing data and optimising resources, we aim to make better use of staff members’ time, and also make their jobs more engaging and rewarding, so that the sector can retain its most essential asset: it’s people.

Over the weekend a serious incident occurred that caused a patient to not receive the specialist feeding care that they needed due to a lack of staff in a Devon hospital. They’ve been told that they must improve their medical care staffing levels after patients were found to be at risk due to the shortages of staff.

INSPECTIONS

After concerns had been raised regarding the lack of medical and nursing staff at North Devon District Hospital and how this was affecting the hospital’s ability to provide safe patient care, North Devon District Hospital was subjected to an unannounced inspection. An inspection conducted by the independent health and social care regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC) in July has been published today, November 3. The inspection examined the care provided on Victoria, Capener, Tarka, Staples and Fortescue Wards. As a result, the overall rating for medical care services dropped from good, which was awarded 2014 to requires improvement, while ratings for safe, effective, and well-led all dropped to requires improvement. Despite this, the service retained its reputation as outstanding in the care it provided, as well as in its responsiveness. The hospital’s overall rating requires improvement. The last full inspection was conducted in 2019, and the hospital was rated as requiring improvement for the third consecutive time. Although some services had improved, inspectors said there was still “much more work” to be done.

Inspectors noted that some services had improved, although there is still ‘much more work’ to be done at the hospital. The hospital’s overall rating requires improvement. The last full inspection took place in 2019 when it was rated as requiring improvement for the third time in a row.

During the inspection, there were also many examples of good practice. The staff felt proud of their role and the work they performed, and felt respected, supported, and appreciated.

HEAD OF INSPECTION

Cath Campbell, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “When we inspected the medical care services at North Devon District Hospital, we found a high number of vacancies with a reliance on agency staff, and not addressing issues around the availability and responsiveness of medical staff for deteriorating patients. This puts patients at risk of harm.

“Although nursing staff were quick to identify and act when they spotted patients who were at risk of deteriorating, medical staff did not always attend to these patients quickly. We saw two patients waiting an hour or more for the doctor to assess them and administer appropriate treatment. There were also occasions when doctors did not respond when paged by the nursing staff, forcing them to contact the intensive care unit to request one of their doctors to urgently review a patient who had deteriorated.

“It was also very concerning to hear a few staff were labelled negatively by their managers for reporting too many incidents. This was preventing other staff from coming forward to report incidents, especially in relation to being short staffed. Staff told us they were sometimes too busy to report incidents and felt little was done about them anyway.

“That said, the medical care services team is thoroughly deserving of its outstanding rating for being caring, which it retained following this inspection. The service introduced a number of commendable new initiatives to reduce patients’ anxiety during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

OUR OPINION

Stories in the news like this are what inspired us [SQ] to create the company that we have today. As amazing as our healthcare is, it needs a hand….

These stories are always described in terms of staff shortages, and it’s certainly true that services haven’t got enough people to fill open roles, but it is not all about numbers. It is more about clear process, clear communication and the RIGHT skills in front of the patient at the right time. The new SQ platform works to automate flow of staff and patients. Critical for us is the improvement of the environment for staff to feel fulfilled in their roles and able to have more impact on the care they deliver to patients. With more and more staff leaving the NHS this improvement in staff morale is going to be essential to maintain and lift care quality.

Meg Wheller
Media Marketer, Spatial Quotient