Shortage of staff nurses takes its toll

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NHS Borders is now using up to 20 bank and agency staff a day to cover for shortages of staff nurses in the region, it has emerged.

At the end of November last year, NHS Borders said it was “proactively filling” vacancies to ensure nursing cover was provided at the BGH and the region’s four community hospital until the end of March.

At the time, the health board had 53 vacant nursing posts and said it was “preparing for winter by recruiting additional nurses and midwives so we can continue to provide the best possible care for patients throughout the busy winter period”.

However, a source has revealed that on each day of last week, the nursing complement in the region was 90 short of the level it should have been, leaving the remaining staff under “tremendous pressure” and forcing the health board to engage of up to 20 agency staff per day in a bid to meet the shortfall.

NHS Borders released a joint statement from June Smyth, director of workforce and planning, and Evelyn Rodger, director of nursing, midwifery and acute services.

It read: “In common with hospitals across Scotland, the BGH and community hospitals are currently very busy.

“Staffing is planned in advance and levels are reviewed at a daily patient flow meeting to ensure the wards have safe staffing levels in place.

“In some instances, it is necessary to fill shifts with nurse bank or agency staff and this is done as far in advance as possible. However, it can prove challenging when there is short notice staff sickness.

“We place great value on our staff and appreciate the efforts they make not only during very busy periods such as winter, but all year round in caring for our patients.”