‘Shortfalls in hospital care’ probe

Keith Dawkins with a selection of his letters. Picture by FRANK REID
Keith Dawkins with a selection of his letters. Picture by FRANK REID

HEALTH chiefs have launched an investigation after a councillor highlighted a catalogue of “shortfalls in care” because of a lack of staff during a week-long stay in hospital.

Keith Dawkins spent a week at the University Hospital of Hartlepool before Christmas after being admitted with breathing difficulties and found himself on three different wards during his stay.

But while he was full of praise for the nursing staff, Coun Dawkins claims the hospital is being stretched to the limit because of a lack of nurses.

Coun Dawkins, who represents the Jesmond ward for the Putting Hartlepool First group, claimed:

A patient’s plate was cleared away with a meal half-eaten after a nurse feeding him was called away;

Nurses did not appear to have a proper rota but arranged shifts between themselves;

Only two nurses worked night shifts when there should have been at least four;

One nurse worked a double shift

Two wards merged into one with the disappearance of seven nurses

Bosses from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust acknowledged Coun Dawkins’ concerns, and while saying the Holdforth Road-based hospital had been “particularly busy” over the last few weeks, they vowed to launch an immediate investigation.

Coun Dawkins, 73, said: “I couldn’t fault the doctors and nurses, they were marvellous.

“It is the system that is failing, and failing the people of Hartlepool.

“They haven’t got enough nurses, and they haven’t got enough time.

“The nurses complained they cannot do nursing as it should be done. In the past they had time to talk to patients.

“They said they can’t do that anymore because they haven’t got the time.

“It’s terrible. To my way of thinking, the trust is running the hospital down so it isn’t fit for purpose like the A&E.”

The Trust said there has been extra pressure on staff recently with high levels of hospital admissions as well as the norovirus sickness bug.

It has also seen more sickness among staff then expected.

Sue Smith, the Trust’s director of nursing, patient safety and quality, said: “Like other hospitals in the region the University Hospital of Hartlepool and its sister hospital in Stockton have been particularly busy over the last few weeks.

“Nursing, medical, therapy and support staff have worked hard to ensure that patient care has not been compromised under what has been a very difficult time.

“Outbreaks of norovirus have resulted in a number of changes to services to accommodate the high numbers of patients admitted to hospital and the higher than usual levels of sickness in staff.

“A number of nurses working in non-clinical areas have responded to the pressures by working in clinical areas and a number of nurses have worked additional hours to maintain service and prevent operations and admissions being cancelled.

“We would like to thank all of our staff for the extra lengths they have gone to in order to provide high quality care.

“We are disappointed to find that Councillor Dawkins noted some omissions of care and would like to assure him that we take such omissions very seriously and will be undertaking an investigation into the allegations.”