Royal Free and Whittington medics warn ‘we can’t do our jobs properly’

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA - Credit: PA WIRE

Half of the medics at the Whittington and Royal Free hospitals say they don’t have adequate supplies or equipment to do their jobs properly, a survey revealed.

The Whittington Hospital. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The Whittington Hospital. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

It also emerged that many employees believe staff shortages are preventing them from being able to work effectively.

A member of staff from the Royal Free NHS Trust described staff shortages as a “total disaster” in the survey, and another said: “Being short staffed on the wards constantly is affecting the health and morale of the staff as well as affecting patient care.”

The figures, published in the 2015 NHS Staff Survey Results, indicated that over 40 per cent of staff in both trusts said they have suffered work-related stress and three-quarters work extra hours on top of their allocated rotas.

A Royal Free spokesman said the survey results do not suggest that staff shortages are a “significant driver” of stress, but acknowledged that “there are some services where there have been staff shortages, which has led to an increased workload or limited the ability to create team spirit”.

He added that stress management and “health and wellbeing” sessions had been introduced in an attempt to deal with staff stress levels.

Director of workforce at Whittington Health NHS Trust, Norma French, said it is “likely” that increased demands for NHS services are causing staff to work extra hours and said: “We know staff shortages can also cause staff to feel stressed at work.”

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She added: “As with many trusts, recruiting nurses and other staff remains a key challenge. To combat this we run bespoke recruitment campaigns.”

As well as pressure created by inadequate equipment and staff shortages, the results highlighted the numbers of staff who have been bullied, abused or harassed by colleagues in the workplace.

Both trusts performed worse in this category than the national average of 24 per cent, with 34 per cent of Royal Free staff and 29 per cent of Whittington staff experiencing this treatment in the last 12 months.

The survey did not specify what defines bullying, harassment and abuse and members of staff pointed out that it is hard to report someone, such as a manager, for bullying when it is subtle and psychological.

A member of Royal Free staff said: “Although there is a much-touted bullying and harassment policy, the trust seems unable or unwilling to act when a complex situation arises.”

The Royal Free has responded by saying it is adapting its existing “staff experience enhancement plan” to better monitor bullying and will increase managerial training.

Ms French emphasised that the Whittington has “zero tolerance” approach and added: “We have introduced a number of new initiatives including; offering training on managing work related stress, and introducing trained bullying and harassment advisors,”

Both trusts said staff health and wellbeing is a top priority.