Nurses work 7,500 extra shifts to help hospital cope with most difficult winter in its history

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 May 2018

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH


Hundreds of nurses worked the equivalent of 7,500 extra shifts to help an under pressure hospital cope with the most difficult period in its history.

Jon Green, chief executive at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Picture: Chris BishopJon Green, chief executive at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Picture: Chris Bishop

More than 800 nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn took on 60,650 extra hours in order for the hospital to cope with huge demand - the equivalent of just over 7,500 eight-hour shifts.

Of the 945 full time registered nurses required at the hospital, just under 15pc of those roles are vacant.

The QEH is currently operating with 814 full time nurses with 72 roles advertised.

Between January 1 and March 31, 445 registered nurses worked an extra 23,766 hours, an average of 53 hours per nurse, while 356 unregistered nurses took on an extra 36,883 hours - an average of 104 hours per nurse.

QEH chief executive Jon Green said the hospital was not 100pc staffed and despite some agency workers, existing staff often need to take on extra ‘bank’ hours.

Mr Green said he believed the lack of a nursing college in the town and the hospital being geographically isolated meant the QEH continually suffered from a staffing shortage.

But Peter Passingham, Unison regional organiser, said: “Factors such as the erosion of the value of staff pay and reductions in real terms funding in the NHS have led to this crisis.

“Not only has this resulted in services being under strain due to staff shortages, but many nurses are now having to take on additional shifts simply to make ends meet.”

Mr Green said an extra 16 nurses were recruited in March and that a flow of overseas recruitment was important for the hospital to run safely.

He said the turnover of a hospital bed had averaged at four days, with roughly 80 to 90 patients being admitted per day throughout the winter period. The majority of patients were aged over 65.

Hospital bosses described this period as the “most difficult winter in NHS history”.

With only 420 beds available, the hospital cancelled 404 operations over the winter in order to prioritise emergency patients and cancer patients.

The majority of these cancellations were made in February, with 193 operations compared to two in December, 49 in January and 160 in March.

Mr Green said: “We are in the process of planning for the next winter, looking at how to move patients out more quickly and safely and working with partners for patients to be at home. The journey to the hospital should be a last resort.”

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