Staff stress at Oxfordshire hospitals 'could lead to mistakes'

Witney Gazette: Under pressure: Hospital staff say stress levels are increasing Under pressure: Hospital staff say stress levels are increasing

NURSES and hospital workers are getting more stressed as changes brought in following Government cuts begin to bite, it was claimed last night.

The Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) survey of almost 4,000 hospital staff found those feeling unwell due to work-related stress increased from 31 per cent in 2011 to 36 per cent in 2012.

But the survey, responded to by 3,793 of the trust’s 11,000 staff, also found positives, including that more people would recommend the trust as a place to work and fewer said there were not enough staff to do their job properly.

A nurse at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford said that stress and tiredness was increasing after changes in hours were brought in last August.

OUHT is set to introduce a new on-site centre to provide staff support next month and said it would analyse the survey to make further improvements.

The trust has to save £160m over the next four years and has cut £3.2m this financial year by changing nursing rotas.

"It is a lot more stressful because there is a lack of staff – people are not being replaced – and nurses are having to look after more patients"

A nurse at the Churchill Hospital

But there have been no compulsory redundancies, an OUHT spokes-man said.

Public sector pay rises were capped at one per cent for a further year in the Budget last month, but two trust directors accepted a rise last year of up to £10,000.

The nurse, who did not want to be identified, said colleagues were leaving the trust after eight-hour shifts were increased to 12 hours.

She said: “They are saving money because on the previous rotas there was too much overlap between early staff and late staff.

“It is a lot more stressful because there is a lack of staff – people are not being replaced – and nurses are having to look after more patients.

“It could possibly lead to more mistakes. If people are tired and stressed, they do generally make mistakes.”

The survey also found 28 per cent of those asked had seen an error, near-miss or incident that could hurt patients, down from 31 per cent the year before.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said the results were on the whole positive and improving but said the stress and error statistics were “worrying”.

He said: “It is an overall picture of a trust doing a good job, but under considerable pressure because of the perpetual quest for efficiency savings.”

Patient Voice chairwoman Jacquie Pearce-Gervis said: “It is a worrying trend that stress is increasing and we hope the trust will address it.

“If staff are overly stressed, they could make mistakes and it could reflect on the care of patients.”

The trust runs the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and The Horton Hospital in Banbury.

The Occupational Health and Wellbeing Centre, combining the existing occupational health department with a new back care team and wellbeing specialist, will open at the John Radcliffe in a converted building in May.

Prof Edward Baker, the trust’s medical director, said: “These latest results indicate that we try hard to support our staff through understanding what is important to them. The highest accolade is that our staff feel confident to recommend us as an employer.

“We are not complacent however, and will look closely at the detail of these results and identify where we need to improve further to improve the working lives of all of our staff.”

Ten of the 50 answers from the 2011 and 2012 Oxford University Hospitals Trust staff survey

  • Not able to do my job to a standard am pleased with: 25 per cent in 2011, 11 per cent in 2012
  • Do not have adequate materials, supplies and equipment to do my work: 29 per cent in 2011, 24 per cent in 2012
  • Not enough staff at organisation to do my job properly: 54 per cent in 2011, 46 per cent in 2012
  • Communication between senior management and staff is not effective: 47 per cent in 2011, 32 per cent in 2012
  • Care of patients/service users is not organisation’s top priority: 20 per cent in 2011, 15 per cent in 2012
  • Would not recommend organisation as place to work: 17 per cent in 2011, 15 per cent in 2012
  • In last three months, have come to work despite not feeling well enough to perform: 55 per cent in 2011, 49 per cent in 2012
  • In last month, saw errors/near- misses/incidents that could hurt patients: 31 per cent in 2011, 28 per cent in 2012
  • My job is not good for my health: 24 per cent in 2011, 27 per cent in 2012
  • Felt unwell due to work related stress in last 12 months: 31 per cent in 2011, 36 per cent in 2012

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