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Flexible working is essential at new hospital, union says

Heatherwood Hospital has opened to address patient backlog due to the pandemic, but RCN warns measures must be in place to relieve staffing pressures

Heatherwood Hospital has opened to address patient backlog due to the pandemic, but RCN warns measures must be in place to relieve staffing pressures

Flexible working and ‘creative’ shift patterns need to be available at a new hospital dedicated to non-emergency treatment, a nursing union has said.

Heatherwood Hospital, part of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, was opened last week as part of the health service’s efforts to address the backlog of care that has reached a record six million patients.

The hospital has 48 inpatient beds and 22 day-case cubicles and will focus on providing care for patients across Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey who have been waiting the longest.

Flexibility is vital if hospital is to retain staff,

Heatherwood Hospital has opened to address patient backlog due to the pandemic, but RCN warns measures must be in place to relieve staffing pressures

Picture: Alamy

Flexible working and ‘creative’ shift patterns need to be available at a new hospital dedicated to non-emergency treatment, a nursing union has said.

Heatherwood Hospital, part of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, was opened last week as part of the health service’s efforts to address the backlog of care that has reached a record six million patients.

The hospital has 48 inpatient beds and 22 day-case cubicles and will focus on providing care for patients across Berkshire, Hampshire and Surrey who have been waiting the longest.

Flexibility is vital if hospital is to retain staff, says union

But RCN senior regional officer Jacqui Carr said that the hospital will not be immune to the staffing pressures felt across the NHS and called for creative ways to attract and retain staff.

‘There are staffing concerns at most hospitals in ensuring that the right number of workers with the right skills mix are on shift at the right time – and this hospital will be no different,’ she added.

‘As with any other establishment, we would urge the employer to be creative with the shift patterns they offer, to consider flexible working and ensure that not only do they recruit enough staff but they also retain them by creating a positive and inclusive culture for everyone working there.’

Elective recovery plan aims to tackle patient backlog

Heatherwood Hospital will provide orthopaedic, ophthalmology, gynaecology, urology and cardiology services, and forms part of NHS England’s elective recovery plan, which promised a ‘massive expansion’ in checks, tests and treatment to deal with the huge backlog caused by the pandemic.

As part of the plan, nurses and other healthcare staff will be asked to work more flexibly and remotely across different settings, including acute and community settings.

The RCN has previously raised concerns about how these services will be staffed, given the widespread shortages of nurses and other key healthcare professionals that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest NHS staff vacancy data show there were 39,652 registered nursing vacancies in England at the end of 2021.

If you need healthcare, the NHS is there for you, says medical director

NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: ‘We continue to pull out all the stops to address COVID-19 backlogs in routine care that have inevitably built up, and this new hospital in Berkshire is a brilliant example of what we are doing to reduce long waits.

‘As we have said throughout the pandemic, it is so important that anyone who needs healthcare continues to come forward for NHS help and support.’

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust has been contacted for comment.


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