Safer staffing in Axminster and Seaton: Ensuring we deliver safe, high-quality care to our patients

THE Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has announced today that it is to temporarily transfer inpatient services at Axminster to Seaton over winter.

Both community hospitals currently provide 10 inpatient beds and a range of other services.

After the temporary merger, Seaton will host one 18-bedded inpatient unit to serve both communities.

The Trust took the decision in order to resolve significant safety risks posed by having unsupported and unsupervised registered nurses working on their own looking after up to 10 patients.

The merger, from the beginning of January 2015, will help to ensure the inpatient service is safe, resilient and consistent over winter.

Dr Alison Diamond, chief executive, said: “There is clear national guidance following the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire care failings that all NHS providers must incorporate safer staffing practices for patients on wards and ensure there is support and supervision for nurses at all times.

“At Axminster and Seaton hospitals, for the majority of every 24-hour period, there is only one registered nurse on duty at any one time.

“While there are no concerns about the quality of care offered in either hospital, the lack of registered nurse support puts undue pressure on the service, and this will be felt more as we head into winter and a period of higher demand.

“Experience of previous winters shows us that a single unit with 18 beds will be far more resilient and less likely to be affected by staff shortages at short notice.

“Merging the beds in one location will mean there are two registered nurses on site at any one time, offering professional support to each other and a more consistent quality of service to our patients.

“This is particularly crucial when caring for patients with increasing acuity (levels of illness and dependence).

“We appreciate that our decision will cause concern among the local community and we did not take it lightly.

“However, we cannot fail in our duty to provide safe, consistent, high-quality nursing services to our patients.

“I would like to thank our committed and dedicated teams in Axminster and Seaton who have worked extra hours and gone above and beyond to serve patients so well over the years.”

Kevin Marsh, director of nursing, said: “Our most senior clinicians believe that running an inpatient service at both hospitals with only one registered nurse on shift presents an unacceptably high risk to patient safety.

“This nurse is not only responsible for the care of up to 10 inpatients, but the security of the building and the other staff. This means they are not able to take breaks or leave the ward or hospital.

“In the longer term it also means they work without peer support or challenge from other nurses, which poses a greater risk to patient care in the healthcare environment post-Francis and Mid Staffs.

“If the units at Axminster and Seaton were not merged, there is a strong chance we would be wholly reliant on agency staff at times over winter.

“It is not sustainable to have an agency nurse as the sole registered nurse responsible for the welfare of up to 10 patients and the other staff in the hospital.

“They won’t know the hospital, our safety processes and our local teams.

“It does not provide an acceptable level or continuity of service for our patients and thus carries greater risks with safety and care.”

The Trust will be attending the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s public meeting at Axminster Guildhall on Tuesday 21 October (5pm to 7pm) to explain the decision.

The Trust is also holding a series of drop-in sessions to enable the public to meet senior clinicians and managers and discuss the temporary transfer.

The sessions take place at Axminster Hospital from 2pm to 4pm on Mondays on the following dates – 20 and 27 October and 3, 10 and 17 November.

More information

  • Axminster Hospital provides 10 inpatient beds and a wide range of X-ray, theatre and outpatient services. These other services will continue unaffected. All inpatients at Axminster will be transferred to Seaton in a safe and planned way.
  • Seaton Hospital, which is seven miles from Axminster, also offers 10 inpatient beds along with a range of medical and therapy outpatient clinics.
  • From a total of 20 beds across the two sites, this will be reduced to 18 to ensure they fit into Seaton Hospital comfortably and within NHS estates guidelines. To compensate for the loss of two beds, the Trust is investing additional resources into the local community nursing and therapy team.
  • The Trust started a consultation with inpatient staff at Axminster Hospital this week. There will be no redundancies as a result of the temporary transfer and all Axminster inpatient staff will be offered the option of moving to Seaton.
  • The Trust’s decision is separate from – and will have no impact on – the longer-term engagement by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group in relation to its strategy for the future provision of community services.
Posted in News.

Last updated: March 6, 2018