Below is a letter I sent to the Chief Executive Officer of the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust regarding safe staffing levels and trust finances:
I am writing regarding recent media reports that hospital Trusts have been advised to cut staffing levels in order to address financial deficits.
I understand that Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority recently wrote to acute NHS Trusts to outline the measures that Trusts were expected to take, with Trusts facing financial deficits advised to make ‘headcount reductions’ and extend the life of machinery and equipment.
I am sure you will understand that such measures will be of great concern to my constituents, who will want to be assured that there are safe staffing levels in place at all times, and that all key machinery and equipment is safe.
The possible loss of staff and/or retention of machinery and equipment for longer than planned is particularly concerning following the results of the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) inspection into services at hospitals run by the then North West London Hospitals NHS Trust published in August 2014, which found that “some areas had shortages of nursing and/or medical staff, which impacted on the care being given.” The inspectors also raised concerns about equipment in the paediatric service, and stated that the Trust must, “ensure that there are appropriate numbers of staff to meet the needs of patients in the A&E department, surgical areas and critical care”, and “ensure that equipment is available, safe and suitable within the paediatric service (Northwick Park Hospital).”
Given the previous recommendations by the CQC to ensure safe staffing levels and the availability of safe and suitable equipment, I would be grateful if you would outline how you intend to respond to the NHS Trust Development Authority’s letter. In particular, please can you advise whether the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust is projected to have a deficit at the end of the current financial year, and what the Trust’s overall historical deficit will be.
Please can you also advise whether the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust intends to reduce the number of permanent staff posts as a result of the financial position? If the Trust has concluded that cuts to staffing levels are required, can you confirm whether clinically trained staff will be lost?
I would also be grateful if you could advise how many doctor and nurse positions were vacant as of 1st January 2016, how much the Trust has spent on agency staff in the financial year to date, and your assessment of the impact on the need to engage agency staff should cuts be made to permanent staffing levels.
Finally, please can you inform me whether the Trust is currently expecting to set a budget deficit for the next financial year, or whether the Trust’s range of projected financial plans includes scenarios in which the Trust would be in deficit. If the Trust is in danger of being in deficit perhaps you could let me have a copy of the Recovery Plan?
Thank you for your assistance.