Mental health trust struggling to fill nursing shifts on region’s inpatient wards

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2012

Staffing levels at mental health wards are under the spotlight today after figures revealed a reduction of permanently employed nurses filling shifts.

Directors of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which is in special measures, meet in public today where safe staffing will be discussed.

Figures show the trust's fill-rate of nurses employed by NSFT is fluctuating between 80pc-90pc, meaning managers have to use extra funds to bring in temporary staff or upskill care support workers.

By comparison the trust's fill-rate last summer was between 87pc-95pc.

It comes as the Royal College of Nursing warned the NHS is facing an 'endless winter' of pressures.

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The trust currently employs 1,186 nurses - a rise of 88 from last October, when there were 1,098 nurses at the trust.

A spokesman for the trust said it automatically took on newly-qualified nurses from University of East Anglia and University Campus Suffolk.

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'As well as recruiting new members of staff we are looking at ways of retaining and developing our existing staff giving them many more opportunities to extend their qualifications, skills and careers within mental health,' the spokesman added. 'We conduct locality-focused recruitment campaigns and recruitment fairs.

'This includes going to Lincoln University on June 28 for second year students, and we will also be attending a recruitment fair at The Forum in Norwich on July 27.'

But RCN's eastern region director Karen Webb said mental health trusts had to demonstrate commitment to safe staffing levels to attract and keep nurses.

She also said people should be concerned about the plans to remove bursaries for student nurses, claiming the idea is a 'dangerous gamble'.

The government wants to scrap the bursaries because it believes it will lead to more nurses being trained.

The mental health trust's board of directors meet from 9.30am today in Endeavour House, Russel Road, Ipswich.

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