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.

Ian Snug
17 December 2018
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.

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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.”

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‘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.

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“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.  

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

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