Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Nursing Crisis Closes Beds

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Nursing Crisis Closes Beds

Article excerpt

Byline: By Louella Houldcroft

A shortage of specialist nurses has forced the closure of 10pc of beds at the region's leading orthopaedic unit, a top consultant has revealed.

John Williams, medical director of the Musculo-Skeletal department at the Newcastle Hospitals Trust, said that despite working evenings and weekends and relying heavily on the private sector, their waiting list had risen by 550 patients in the last nine months.

A shortage of nurses is the biggest challenge facing the department, with six of the unit's 60 beds closed because there are not the staff to man them.

Criticising the "short-term fix" of Government performance targets, Mr Williams warned that without a major cash injection and more staff, hospitals across the country would be unable to meet this year's waiting list targets.

"The bottom line is we need more theatre space and more bed space," he said, "but it is the shortage of specialist nurses that is causing us the biggest problems and unless we can recruit more we are not going to hit the targets that are being expected of us this year.

"Trying to get the waiting times down is very laudable - a decade ago patients could be on a list years with no realistic hope of ever getting surgery.

"But we can only go as fast as the slowest step in the system and these short-term pressures being put on us by the Government simply mean that at the end of a financial year my colleagues are working seven days a week, 24 hours a day and it's not sustainable. It's not healthy for them or for the patients."

Last year, the 16-strong team of orthopaedic consultants based at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital - one of the region's leading units which is pioneering techniques in hip and spinal surgery - carried out a total of 2,673 operations and 5,410 clinic appointments.

This was on top of the trauma work - broken bones through falls and road traffic accidents, for example - that comes in through the Accident and Emergency department at Newcastle General Hospital. …

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