Health chief denies service understaffed

A frontline member of staff within NHS Borders has told The Southern that hospital services are chronically understaffed.

The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said last week’s story on the £8.5million NHS Borders has spent on agency and bank staff in three years did not reveal the true costs, with contracted staff often picking up extra hours.

They said: “NHS Borders has its own nurse bank and only in exceptional circumstances are they allowed to employ agency staff.

“But staff who have contracted hours are often asked to do extra, so that the spend doesn’t show up in the totals, and of course doesn’t quite highlight the chronic understaffing of NHS Borders.”

The employee added that morale was ‘fairly low’ and is concerned that staff working extra hours will lead to increased sickness leave.

In 2011/12 nurses worked 1,284 hours above those contracted, at a cost of £28,177 to NHS Borders. However, between just April and September 2012, nurses worked 1,137 extra hours, costing £45,913.

NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell responded: “Safe levels of nursing and midwifery staffing are well defined and are required on wards. NHS Borders meets these standards.”

He added that there have been ‘significant challenges’ with frontline staffing due to maternity leave, sickness absence and annual leave cover.

Mr Campbell said such gaps are offered to contracted staff initially, before being offered to bank staff to fill.

He added: “Staff are not obliged to work additional hours. All staff are contracted to work in line with the 48 hours working time regulations. At present, workers can choose to work more than their contracted hours, only if they want to.”