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HCSA welcomes CQC 'canary in the mine' on hospital care

HCSA – The Hospital Doctors’ Union has welcomed as a “breath of fresh air” the Care Quality Commission’s focus on hospital staffing levels and well-being in its annual State of Care report released today.

Eddie Saville, Chief Executive of the only professional association and trade union dedicated to hospital doctors, said clinicians were all too familiar with the picture of high stress and thinly stretched services.

“The CQC’s recognition of the huge sacrifices made by hospital staff will come as a breath of fresh air to many HCSA members,” Mr Saville said.

“So too will its emphasis on good engagement – highlighting that the best care happens when clinicians and colleagues on the front line are involved in decision-making and planning care.

“However, the CQC’s observation that there is ‘no long-term solution yet in sight’ to the ‘precarious’ picture that it identifies across the health system is another canary in the mine for policy-makers.

“These latest warnings on staffing and resources add to the growing body of evidence that more financial resources are needed if we are to create safe, sustainable 21st century services.”

In its assessment of all branches of NHS care, the CQC warns: “The combination of greater demand and unfilled vacancies means that staff are working ever harder to deliver the quality of care that people have a right to expect. However, there is a limit to their resilience.”

It urges: “Staff wellbeing and engagement need to be a priority for all types of NHS trusts.”

In Trusts which were rated highly on safety, “staff felt empowered to speak out about safety issues and there was as supportive learning culture,” the CQC notes.

“Ensuring staffing levels and skills mix are well planned, implemented and reviewed was found to be another important part of a good safety culture.

“When clinical leaders, such as consultants, ward managers and lead nurses, were effectively engaged and worked together with managers, this helped bridge the gap between senior leaders and frontline staff.”

Elsewhere, the CQC paints a picture of rising pressure on services, including a continuing squeeze on beds that has seen an average occupancy rate of 91.4 per cent – the highest ever and well above the 85 per cent target which was last met in 2012/13.

“There are fewer available beds in hospitals and people are waiting longer for treatment. Deterioration in the achievement of the four-hour emergency access target is a reflection of the severe pressures that acute hospitals face; it is no longer just a winter problem.”

Giving its assessment of the health system, it states: “The overall picture remains precarious, with no long-term solution yet in sight.”