Nurses could be sent from France to help trust cope

Clinical commissioning group says bringing in staff from Calais Hospital 'just one option' for cutting waiting lists

A clinical commissioning group (CCG) in south east England is considering drafting in nurses and doctors from France to help cut down long waiting lists for elective procedures. 

Medway CCG governing body is considering options for increasing capacity for elective procedures in the area, which include using consultants and nurses from Calais Hospital.

Its main elective provider, Medway NHS Foundation Trust, has 10,000 people waiting more than 18 weeks for elective procedures.

A meeting of the CCG governing body last month heard that there has been ‘a widespread failure to deliver waiting times under 18 weeks for Medway patients’, and the issues with waiting times are not likely to be resolved until next year.

The largest waiting lists are in orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat surgery, dermatology and imaging and endoscopy diagnostics. 

The CCG is considering two other options: seeking extra capacity from existing local providers and signing a contract with a new private sector provider.

RCN south east operational manager Sarah Dodsworth said the Calais option is 'not a solution, it is just a sticking plaster on a gaping wound of staff shortages’ at the trust. She said: ‘There are shortages of specialist nurses in theatres and shortages of consultants as well, and that is contributing to increased waiting times.’

Unison's lead regional organiser for health in the south east Simon Bolton said the trust has between 300 and 350 nurse vacancies. He said problems with waiting lists at the trust are ‘symptomatic of the whole sector’ and cuts to local government social care budgets are a contributing factor. 

He added: ‘The government needs to put the money in, to make sure the money is available to stop bed blocking. But if you cut local government budgets, then some of the social care budget is going out the window.’

A Medway CCG spokesperson said: ‘No decisions have yet been made in relation to the possible use of clinical staff from Calais Hospital and this is only one of a number of options being discussed.

‘If partners agree that this is part of a realistic and cost-effective solution that can improve patient outcomes, we will be seeking to deploy Calais staff locally.’

A spokesperson for the trust said it has a recovery plan to reduce the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks and one of the main measures is the recruitment of permanent nursing staff to reduce reliance on 'costly agency staff'.

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