Staff levels at hospital under attack by watchdog
Staffing levels at the Ulster Hospital are inadequate, official inspectors have found.
An unannounced inspection by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) over four days in February, included visits to the Emergency Department as well as a medical and a surgical ward at the Co Down hospital.
Olive Macleod, RQIA's chief executive, said: "At the Ulster Hospital, while we observed compassionate staff who showed empathy to patients, in every area inspected we had concerns about nurse staffing levels - which led to reports of low staff morale; patient's care records; and training for staff."
In the medical ward, inspectors identified concerns over nursing supervision, delayed patient discharge, poor patient flow, and the use of an undesignated 'corridor' bed, which blocked access to an emergency exit.
"Inspectors also considered staffing levels to be inadequate, including a lack of senior clinical decision makers, which impacted on the effective running of the ward," Ms Mcleod said.
"We were also advised that there was an insufficient number of junior medical staff, particularly at nights and weekends."
While the surgical ward was deemed "bright and welcoming" with a calm atmosphere, inspectors noted that the ward's facilities made it difficult to maintain patient privacy and dignity, with day surgery patients having to change in the ward toilets.
At the Emergency Department, the atmosphere was also "calm" with staff working diligently to manage patient flow.
But staff raised concerns about crowding, staffing levels, staff with relevant clinical skills, workload, and patient privacy.
The inspectors also found that essential equipment was not always available at busy times and designated rooms for vulnerable patients could not always be guaranteed.
In addition, routine safety rounds for patients were not being carried out and nursing records were not completed in line with best practice guidelines.