Almost 200 positions at the hospital were unfilled at the last count, a situation described by one union official as being ‘in the red zone’.
Health Minister Richard Renouf said that a review had taken place to ensure staffing levels were appropriate in order to continue to provide safe care, but admitted that it was sometimes necessary to cut services.
Kenny McNeil, chairman of the Royal College of Nursing, said the nursing vacancy level was among the highest that he could recall in recent years. ‘To have 11% of posts unfilled is pretty high and puts the hospital in the red zone,’ he said.
‘The Health Department needs to look at this immediately in order to find out the reasons for this figure being so high and why so many nurses are leaving.’
Mr McNeil said he was seeking to meet health officials in order to determine what measures were being taken to tackle the matter.
‘It is a worldwide problem, and we hear about there being 40,000 nursing vacancies in the UK, so it follows that Jersey will have similar issues,’ he added.
In response to a written States question, Deputy Renouf said: ‘There are occasions, although these are very rare, that activity may need to be reviewed and potentially reduced if staffing levels are not able to support safe care.’
Deputy Renouf gave details of 194 vacancies at the end of August, equating to 11.6% of the total positions at the hospital. This included 74 vacancies in nursing and midwifery (10.9% of the total), and 22 among allied health professionals such as physios, dietitians, radiographers and occupational therapists (9.2%).
Deputy Kevin Pamplin had asked the minister about the impact of staff illness. Deputy Renouf said this was reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with a ‘safer staffing’ tool used to assist managers in making the best use of resources, including offering overtime to existing staff, or the use of agency workers if necessary.
After being contacted by the JEP yesterday morning, a government spokeswoman said the Health Department would be unable to comment until next week.
Deputy Pamplin said the question was part of a wider piece of work by the Health and Social Security scrutiny panel regarding recruitment.
‘We are looking at the Government Plan and the funding in order to assess whether investment is going in the right places,’ he said. ‘It is a very tricky balance, particularly given the issues facing potential new recruits such as housing and the cost of living.’
Sector – Total Posts – Vacancies (%)
Allied Health Professionals 240 – 22 (9.2%)
Civil Servants 239 – 50 (21.9%)
Manual Workers 347 – 40 (11.5%)
Medical Staffing 167 – 8 (4.8%)
Nursing & Midwifery 680 – 74 (10.9%)
TOTAL 1,673 – 194 (11.6%)