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Lincoln Hospitals ‘more concerned about sock colour than understaffing’

Unions have passed a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the trust’s board over patient safety fears.



hospital waiting room

Four Lincolnshire Hospitals have been accused of ‘being more worried about sock or hair colour’ than persistent understaffing in clinical areas.

Patient safety concerns have been raised at four Lincolnshire hospitals after unions accused United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust of ‘being more worried about the sock or hair colour’ of staff than persistent understaffing in clinical areas.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust manages Lincoln County Hospital, Grantham and District Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, and County Hospital in Louth.


The trust has been in financial special measures since 2017 and was deemed to ‘require improvement’ in four out of five areas by the Care Quality Commission in June. In December 2018 the trust had the highest number of ambulances delayed by more than 30 minutes of any trust in England.

Unite, alongside other healthcare unions, have called for NHS Improvement, responsible for overseeing NHS trusts, and the Care Quality Commission, the regulator for health and social care services in England, to complete an in-depth investigation of the concerns.

In December, unions wrote to Elaine Baylis, Interim Trust Chair, saying it had raised “significant” issues on a number of occasions that were still unresolved and now “has no confidence with their trust board.”

‘No confidence’.

Steve Syson, Unite Regional Officer, said: “We have a chaotic management at this trust which is running an estimated deficit of £80 million a year.

“But, at the same time, the bosses can find £700,000 to spend on three management roles and engage consultants KPMG for advice on the financial situation, even when the trust is in financial special measures.

“How many badly-needed NHS frontline staff dealing with direct patient care would this princely sum have paid for?

“Instead of tackling the vital issues, such as understaffing in the wards at the hospitals and excessive use of agency staff identified in the CQC report, we have a petty HR regime, masterminded by the HR department, that seems more concerned about the colour of socks employees wear than dealing with staff grievances and concerns raised in relation to patient safety and frontline staff shortages.

“The staff side unions have passed a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the trust’s board, as we fear patient safety could be jeopardised.

“NHS Improvement and the Care Quality Commission have already inspected the trust’s services in April this year finding four key areas of care at the trust requiring improvement, but we feel that a second visit by these two organisations needs to happen for a more in-depth probe into the conduct of the trust.”

‘Top quality patient care is our priority’.

Martin Rayson, Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: Providing top quality patient care is always our number one priority. As everyone will know, the Trust has made significant improvements over recent years going from an ‘inadequate Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating to ‘requires improvement’, and we believe we are now on track to come out of special measures.

We are very disappointed that Unite has decided to take this approach, especially as we recently held a facilitated workshop to resolve any issues of partnership working, where the Trust reiterated our commitment to working together in the interests of patients and staff. Unfortunately we have not been given the opportunity to respond to any of the unions latest concerns but are happy to sit down with them to find a resolution.

Samantha Milbank, Accountable Officer for Lincolnshire East CCG said; “Lincolnshire East CCG, as lead commissioner for services provided by ULHT across Lincolnshire, is aware of the many challenges that are facing the Trust.  

“We continue to support the management of the Trust as they work to address these issues.”

Professional Regulation

NMC launches an emotional support helpline for staff involved in fitness to practise cases

The helpline is part of the NMC’s bid to become a “person-centred” regulator.



Female with Telephone

The helpline will provide emotional and practical support for staff involved in the fitness to practise processes.

Nurses, midwives and nursing associates involved in fitness to practise can now benefit from a new, free and confidential support service.

The NMC’s Careline, operated by an independent provider, will provide emotional and practical support is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for nurses and midwives across the UK, and nursing associates in England, who are involved in the fitness to practise processes.


Staff can contact the service via phone, live chat or email, to discuss concerns with specially trained counsellors who are experienced in handling sensitive topics.

Launching less than a year since the NMC set up its support service for members of the public who raise concerns when things go wrong with their nursing or midwifery care, the 12-month CareLine pilot launched on World Mental Health day.

Becoming a ‘person-centred’ regulator.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the NMC, said: “Following the launch last year of our Public Support Service for people affected by poor nursing or midwifery care, I’m really pleased we’re now able to offer this new pilot resource for professionals.

“The Careline marks another important step forward in truly humanising how we operate and becoming the person-centred professional regulator that the NMC is determined to be with everyone we interact with.

“Less than one per cent of around 700,000 professionals on our register are engaged in our fitness to practise procedures, but we know that it can have a profound effect on those that are. The impact on someone’s physical and mental wellbeing as a result of being under such scrutiny mustn’t go unrecognised.

“I hope the Careline, and our forthcoming remediation guidance, further encourages support and learning when things do go wrong in nursing and midwifery care. Together, let’s help ensure that all those involved in our processes are treated with kindness and respect.”

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Learning Disabilities

Mental health and learning disability services are deteriorating, says CQC

Growing pressure on services alongside chronic staffing issues risk creating a ‘perfect storm’ for patients.



nurse on hospital ward

Nearly one in ten acute mental health and learning disability services are now rated as ‘inadequate’.

The quality of care provided by mental health and learning disability services has deteriorated in past last year, a report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned.

In the CQC’s annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England, the regulator warns that growing pressures on services alongside chronic staffing issues risk creating a ‘perfect storm’ for patients using mental health and learning disability services.


The report reveals that 10% of learning disability inpatient services and 8% of acute mental health units and psychiatric intensive care units are now rated as ‘inadequate’, compared with just 1% and 2% respectively last year.

Fourteen independent mental health hospitals were placed into special measures since last October and three were closed permanently.

The number of child and adolescent mental health inpatient services rated inadequate has also risen to 8%, up on just 3% last year.

‘A perfect storm’.

Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said: “In this year’s State of Care, we have highlighted mental health and learning disability inpatient services because that’s where we are starting to see an impact on quality – and on people.

“There has been a deterioration in ratings in these services – and our inspection reports highlight staff shortages, or care delivered by staff who aren’t trained or supported to look after people with complex needs, as a reason for this.

“Increased demand combined with challenges around workforce and access risk creating a perfect storm – meaning people who need support from mental health, learning disability or autism services may receive poor care, have to wait until they are at crisis point to get the help they need, be detained in unsuitable services far from home, or be unable to access care at all.

‘Immediate and firm action is needed’.

Commenting on the report, Patricia Marquis, Director for RCN England, said:  “With this report, the official inspectors are putting England’s nursing shortage front and centre as a key reason for poor care – no area of care appears safe from the engulfing workforce crisis. Now that their concern is on record, it leaves Ministers with nowhere to turn – they must take immediate and firm action to address the 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs.

“The CQC is painting a picture of too many nurses reaching burnout or breaking point with patients paying the price. In A&E in particular, nursing staff and their colleagues are left trying to treat patients as best they can in a system without enough capacity or boots on the ground.

“The independent inspection body backs calls made by the RCN and others for a coherent workforce plan and also puts on record its view that the removal of the bursary for nursing students led to a decline in people able to train. Now that it has been recognised here, the Government must act to put at least £1 billion extra per year into nursing education if it hopes to recover lost ground and fill these vital jobs.”

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