Published: 10/08/2017 17:00 - Updated: 10/08/2017 11:32

Inverness's New Craigs Hospital at 'crisis point' over staffing

Written byGregor White

New Craigs
Admissions have been restricted to New Craigs Hospital.

INVERNESS’S psychiatric hospital is "at crisis point" according to a staff insider who spoke out after admissions were restricted due to staff shortages.

NHS Highland announced last week that admissions at New Craigs Hospital are to be restricted throughout August to ensure staff can continue to deliver a safe level of care.

Michael Perera, the health board’s general manager for mental health services, said the adult admission bed complement at the hospital was to be reduced from 54 to 48 for the month.

"At the moment 42 of our inpatient beds are in use but this temporary restriction will mean that we will not be able to take admissions from out of area," he said.

"The situation will be kept under constant review by NHS Highland."

He added: "We have been successful in recruiting to 10 trained nursing posts with staff expected to start in September. This will go some way to help alleviate the situation but the shortages we are experiencing are a reflection of what is happening elsewhere in the north of Scotland."

A member of hospital staff who wanted to remain anonymous painted a grim picture of working conditions at the hospital when they spoke to the Highland News in the wake of the announcement.

"New Craigs Hospital is at crisis point," they said.

"The nurses are working at a dangerous level most days with severe staff shortages – many leaving to go elsewhere and others off sick with stress.

"It is so difficult to come home from work some days and switch off after being short staffed and feeling you haven’t given the best possible patient care due to time restraints and increasing pressure."

Nursing union the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said they were "aware" of the situation at New Craigs but wouldn’t comment further.

The organisation recently welcomed an Audit Scotland report into NHS planning which said that workforce projections are being consistently underestimated.

RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said the Scottish Government had failed to "future proof" the organisation as a whole and added: "The result is that Scotland has too few nursing staff in post and too few nurses being trained.

"Staff across NHS Scotland are under enormous, unrelenting pressure to meet ever growing demand."

This week a spokesman for NHS Highland said staff had been consulted about the decision to limit the number of new admissions at New Craigs.

"Discussions with staff side representatives had helped managers make this decision as they also recognised that staff were under pressure," he said.

"We responded to this by making the decision to temporarily reduce adult admissions for the month of August to match the number of nurses we have available."

The restriction on admissions follows a review of ward structures at the hospital as well.

Last month it was revealed plans are being discussed to accommodate more elderly patients with dementia and mental health problems at New Craigs.

Another hospital insider said at the time the "review" really meant hospital beds were to be axed, but NHS Highland insisted the moves are necessary as the size of the local elderly population grows.

They stressed that staff are being consulted as part of this review too.

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