The number of trained nurses needed at hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside has risen slightly, but is in a healthier position than other trusts around the country.
A nursing update to the latest Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust board meeting reported that the vacancy position for qualified staff increased in September to four per cent from a three per cent position the previous month.
The highest areas of vacancies for registered nurses remain in medicine and community.
Hearing about almost 80 current nursing vacancies, Allan Hepple, a Northumberland county councillor who is on the board, asked whether that was a high or low figure.
He was told it was about average for Northumbria Healthcare, but chief executive Jim Mackey said it wasn’t uncommon for similar-sized organisations elsewhere to have several hundred nursing vacancies.
It was also pointed out that there is a new cohort of trainee nurses starting and a further 79 going through pre-employment checks at the moment.
The latest nursery and midwifery assurance report showed that, in September, the average day-shift fill rate for registered nurses was unchanged from the 89 per cent recorded in August, while the night-shift fill rates increased to 95 per cent from 92 per cent the previous month.
Four areas reported a shift fill rate below 80 per cent during the day – Wansbeck General Hospital’s palliative care unit – 78 per cent; Alnwick Infirmary – 70 per cent; Berwick Infirmary – 76 per cent and the Whalton Unit, Morpeth – 75 per cent.
However, this is a decrease from August when there were six areas with rates below 80 per cent.
There was also one area which reported a night-shift fill rate below 80 per cent in September and that was Ward 4 at the Northumbria, in Cramlington (78 per cent).
The trust’s interim executive director of nursing, Marion Dickson, said: “There were some gaps, but the matrons have offered assurances that it was safe at all times.
“For the first time since I have been here, we have been fully recruited in maternity,” she added, while pointing out that the trust ‘just needs to keep an eye on’ staffing at community hospitals.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service