Hospital bosses are being forced to rely on agency staff to run two new permanent wards at a hospital in the Black Country amid problems recruiting experienced workers, it has emerged.
Bosses at Walsall Manor Hospital agreed to keep open two temporary wards in a bid to cope with rising numbers of patients. The 54 beds in Wards 12 and 14 have been operated through using agency, locum and bank staff while permanent recruitment is carried out. Around 55 staff are needed to run the permanent bays but Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust has found it difficult to find suitable recruits.
It emerged in March the board was planning to keep the wards open and it was expected the recruitment process would be completed this month.
However, it is now expected to run into October. The beds were initially opened up for the busy winter period but demand has meant they needed to remain.
A report from Paul Gibara, divisional director for medicine and long-term conditions, to board members, said: “Although the recruitment plan clearly identified an expected completion by the end of August recruitment of suitable qualified and experienced nurses has been a challenge given that many trusts are currently advertising and establishing a number of additional wards themselves.
“It is expected that with ongoing focus a full establishment could be achieved by the end of October.”
It comes after it was announced up to 80 extra staff are being recruited to tackle the multi-million pound use of temporary workers. If the current rate of expenditure continues the total spend on staff would be £9.7 million by the end of the year.
The trust are looking to take on 40 apprentices. Their role would include looking after patients who are at a high risk of falls. This would reduce the need to use bank staff.
Up to 40 extra nurses are also poised to be employed and help cope with demands as part of the combined plan worth almost £800,000 in this financial year.
Figures released in spring showed emergency admissions at Walsall Manor rose by almost 3,000 in 10 months, compared to the previous year.
There was also an extra 2,700 patients than staff expected in the same time period between last April and February.
The health trust is still in discussions with colleagues at New Cross in Wolverhampton over running services at Cannock Chase Hospital.
When proposals to strip services from Cannock and Stafford hospitals were announced, Walsall Manor chief executive Richard Kirby revealed £6 million plans to expand the maternity unit at the Manor.