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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Barrow hospital’s workforce ‘cut to bone’ - union

HOSPITAL staff are “cut to the bone”, according to a healthcare union after figures revealed scores are signed off sick with stress-related illness.

A Freedom of Information request by the Evening Mail revealed 15 nurses, seven midwives, two doctors and 15 non-clinical staff at Furness General Hospital had missed three consecutive weeks or more of work due to stress and anxiety this year so far.

The figures show that 14 nurses, 15 midwives and two doctors had missed three consecutive months or more of work due to stress since 2012.

As of March, 23 staff were still signed off at FGH with stress.

The hospital employs 493 nurses and 58 midwives in total.

Across the trust as a whole 94 members of staff missed three or more consecutive weeks of work due to stress this year.

Jenny Martin, regional organiser for Cumbria at healthcare union Unison, said low staffing levels were a major cause of concern for staff at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs FGH.

She said: “On the back of the Care Quality Commission report everyone acknowledges staffing levels are not what they could be.

“Staff are working long hours and are cut to the bone, and that is reflected by these figures.”

She claimed Unison members were working long shifts without adequate breaks which was “taking its toll.”

Last month the CQC rated the hospital as inadequate following inspections in February, which resulted in government regulator Monitor placing it into special measures.

But the trust says it has a number of “support mechanisms” in place to help staff deal with stress.

David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development at the trust, said: “We know that providing a workplace where good health is promoted means our employees will be happier and healthier and help us to ensure our hospitals are a great place to be cared for as well as a great place to work.”

He said trust managers are trained to deal with stress, and stress audits are undertaken regularly.

Staff are also offered fast-track to counselling and, more recently, cognitive behavioural therapy.

But Ms Martin said investment in staffing levels was needed “sooner rather than later.”

She said: “The trust has acknowledged there is a shortage, to a certain degree, and change is not going to happen overnight.

“But we do not want to see a knee jerk reaction to the CQC report putting more pressure on staff in terms of meeting targets, but without any investment.”

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