Pledge to improve staffing levels at hospitals across Norfolk and west Suffolk

2014 recruitment drive at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Pictured: Back row (from left

2014 recruitment drive at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Pictured: Back row (from left) Diane Benefer, Julia Saunders, Claire Roberts, Jose Miguel, Trish Ralph, Debbie Longmuir and Sue Green. At the front are (from left) Emma Beavan, Valerie Newton and Katy Warren. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Hospital chiefs said action had already been taken to boost worker numbers after it emerged there had been a more than 25pc increase in low staffing reports across Norfolk and west Suffolk.

New figures from a Freedom of Information request have revealed there was a rise at four acute hospitals from 1,375 in 2011/12 to 1,746 in 2012/13.

The biggest percentage increase in low staffing concerns was at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and the West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds. However, officials said they had already recruited more nurses after workers logged their fears about patient care.

The QEH, which was placed in special measures last year, saw the number of low staffing reports jump from 383 in 2011/12 to 698 in 2012/13. Between April and November, there were 853 reports logged.

Officials said the recruitment of more nurses became the new hospital management team's top priority in October. A spokesman for the QEH said an extra £400,000 was pumped into additional recruitment last year and the recruitment drive was continuing.

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'We take all reports of low or unsafe staffing levels extremely seriously and these are immediately escalated to board level. The difficulty in recruiting sufficient numbers of qualified nurses has been an issue for all NHS acute trusts for some years.'

There was a slight increase in low staffing reports at the N&N from 622 in 2011/12 to 631 in 2012/13.

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Anna Dugdale, chief executive, said incident reporting was a powerful mechanism for promoting safe systems of work and high quality care.

'We encourage staff to report any concerns they may have so that we can review the situation and make changes if necessary. When a report concerns staffing, this can be addressed through reallocating staff from one area to another, rescheduling planned work or adjusting staffing schedules. We have a team of bank (relief) nurses and administrative staff who are employed to assist with changes in workload demand.'

The James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston saw a nine pc increase in low staffing reports from 356 in 2011/12 to 391 in 2012/13.

A spokesman for the hospital said its board of directors approved a £1.3m investment at their meeting in November to recruit more nurses.

'We review staffing levels at every operational bed meeting which take place at least three times a day. Risks are identified and all arrangements put in place including use of additional staff and moving staff from another area of the site in order to support high patient demand.

'The trust actively encourages staff to report changes in staffing and any other incidents or near misses, and we are recognised as a high reporting organisation which demonstrates a positive and open culture,' said the spokesman.

The number of low staffing reports at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds rose from 14 in 2011/12 to 26 in 2012/13. However, officials said there were around 22,000 shifts at the NHS trust during a year. The hospital has recruited 40 qualified nurses from Portugal to plug vacancies.

Nicole Day, chief executive nurse at the hospital, said ward staffing levels were monitored regularly and staffing numbers were displayed on a laminated sheet on each ward every day.

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