Lack of nurses and poor skill mix put Addenbrooke's in special measures

CQC said patients put at risk because nurses had to practise outside their specialty

One of the UK’s largest hospital trusts has been placed in special measures after inspectors recorded widespread and ‘significant’ shortages of nurses and other staff and frequent cases of nurses caring for patients outside their specialties.

Following inspections in April and May, the Care Quality Commission rated Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has two main sites – Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Rosie Hospital – inadequate. This was in part because there were not enough nurses in departments giving critical, respiratory, surgical or neonatal care. 

Nurses were often shunted from one section to another to make up shortfalls, the CQC found, and although the trust filled gaps with agency staff, this resulted in ‘inappropriate skill mixes’ and patients being cared for by staff who were not trained in certain specialties.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards said: ‘We were concerned that in some services staff were caring for people in areas unfamiliar to them, meaning patient safety and welfare was placed at risk. 

‘Staff were hard-working, passionate and caring throughout the trust, prepared to go the extra mile for patients, but having to swim upstream against the pressures they faced.’

Maternity services were frequently closed and inspectors had serious concerns about high levels of nitrous oxide detected in a birthing centre. Routine operations were often cancelled, with patients having to wait longer than the 18-week period stipulated for referral for treatment.

Despite these shortcomings, the CQC praised staff for their caring attitudes and said multidisciplinary working was effective and robust. 

A team, including nurses and consultants, who review patient diagnostic tests to make treatment decisions, was ‘outstanding’.

The trust promised rapid action to address the problems. 

Acting chief executive David Wherret said: ‘Against a backdrop of increased demand and tighter resources, our services continue to be recognised nationally and internationally for their safety and patient outcomes.’

To read the full CQC report, click here


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