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State of emergency as Unison report on Raigmore Hospital claims huge pressure on staff is impacting on patient care

By Neil MacPhail

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Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

A shock report on Raigmore Hospital has detailed huge pressure on staff which union members claim is impacting on patient care.

Members of Unison have contributed to a document calling for urgent top level action to alleviate a crisis they say has been brought to a head by the coronavirus pandemic.

The document containing the experiences of union members working at various levels within NHS Highland has been sent to health board bosses, resulting in an emergency meeting being held on Tuesday.

A joint meeting of unions was also held yesterday to discuss the situation.

While the report majored on Raigmore, Unison branch secretary Dawn MacDonald said there were similar pressures across the region.

She added: “Tuesday’s meeting was positive, but I made it clear we want to work in partnership and move these concerns forward and mitigate them. It is time to walk the walk and not talk the talk.”

The report states: “Staff members are at the end of their tether, and are feeling under huge pressure, and not able to deliver the care and treatment to patients that they would wish and expect to be able to do.

“Winter is approaching and these issues are likely to worsen.”

Fears are raised about medications being missed or given late, patient buzzers having to go unanswered for long periods and staff not having time to undertake vital training even where it is mandatory.

Other concerns include patients’ personal care being rushed or missed and some patients receiving food that has gone cold due to staff having to leave meal trolleys partway through serving to deal with other duties.

There are also worries about numbers of patients with different care needs being placed together in wards, with one claim of a situation that saw a room occupied by six patients, all with different “specialities”.

The result was nurses having to chase up multiple doctors, which they feared can result in information getting missed or not being passed on as appropriate.

The report stated: “Staff are going home feeling upset and stressed, feeling like they have missed and forgotten to do things due to the busyness and demand in the ward.

“Staff morale has significantly declined. We leave work feeling deflated and exhausted. We do not feel like we are providing an appropriate level of care expected of us as we physically do not have the time and sometimes don’t have the staff to achieve this.

“The stress staff is carrying at this present time is running people down to the point that they dread coming into their work.”

Unison wants to see the issues raised with health secretary Humza Yousaf as part of national concerns about pressures within health and social care and for NHS Highland to receive the support needed to manage the situation.

Fiona Hogg.
Fiona Hogg.

Fiona Hogg, NHS Highland’s director of people and change, said: “NHS Highland along with all boards in NHS Scotland is experiencing sustained pressures on our services and a shortage of registered colleagues to fill posts.

“We recognise colleagues right across our organisation are feeling tired and concerned about their ability to provide the high standards of care that they wish to, and we are doing all we can to support them.”

She said this week’s meeting had been constructive.

“We’re focussing on making sure colleagues at the front line right across our services have access to management support, to have their concerns heard and address these at the time, to reassure them and help them access services where needed,” she added.

“We’re also focussing on local communication to make sure colleagues are involved in the staffing decisions we make, the risk assessments we make and that our principles of safe care are well shared and understood, so colleagues are clear on their priorities.”

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