King George Hospital trust looks abroad to fill staff shortages

King George Hospital in Goodmayes is one of the two hospitals BHRUT is responsible for.

King George Hospital in Goodmayes is one of the two hospitals BHRUT is responsible for. - Credit: Archant

NHS staff shortages are putting pressure on hospital teams, the chief executive of the trust which runs King George Hospital has warned.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) revealed 11 per cent of posts are vacant.

BHRUT is improving employment rates by creating good working environments and recruiting from abroad.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, chief executive Matthew Hopkins said: “We are consistently working to fill our vacancies and make sure that we have enough staff to provide safe care for out patients.

“But we do operate in a competitive market where there a number of other hospitals also looking to fish from a limited supply of nurses and doctors, particularly in the speciality of emergency medicine where it’s competitive nationally and in London.”

The overall vacancy rate has fallen from a high of 13.2pc in April 2015, but approximately 725 of 6,491 established roles at BHRUT remain unfilled. In acute medicine – including the A&E department – the vacancy rate is 20pc.

This was highlighted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as an area requiring improvement when it visited last year and judged that despite significant improvements, the trust should remain in special measures.

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Deborah Tarrant, director of people and organisational development at BHRUT, said: “There is a national shortage of consultants and doctors. We know that emergency departments are very challenging to work in.

“At our trust in particular the activity is high with increasing demand.”

Staff shortages mean hospitals have to rely on temporary staff, including from agencies which charge a premium of about 20pc.

Temporary staff cost BHRUT £47million a year and both Mr Hopkins and Mrs Tarrant acknowledged they are an added pressure on existing teams.

Mr Hopkins said: “We have to supplement our staff with the agency workers who are not part of the team on a regular basis.

“Agency workers have an impact on patient care, as the best care is delivered by teams that work together regularly.”

The trust has travelled to both Portugal and Italy since last autumn and recruited about 200 nurses to combat this pressure.