Bosses at West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals Trust - which runs Watford General and St Albans City hospitals - have been struggling to find enough qualified nurses, with one in 10 shifts for registered nurses going unfilled, according to the latest data.

Sickness, staff vacancies and maternity leave are said to be among the reasons that hospital shifts for registered nurses have not been filled.

Senior staff at the trust are reported to have been meeting twice a day – morning and afternoon – to review safe staffing.

Read more

The latest ‘shift fill’ data – which runs to the end of February – was presented to a meeting of the West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals Trust board earlier this month.

It shows that for the past six months the number of shifts unfilled by registered nurses has yo-yoed around the 10 per cent mark – dipping to 11 per cent in February.

Meanwhile, extra shifts at the hospitals have been filled by ‘unregistered nurses’ – said to reflect additional shifts related to escalation beds and the need for ‘enhanced care workers’.

‘Unregistered nurses’ are also known as ‘healthcare support workers’ and they work with registered staff to support the staffing of clinical areas.

Staff, according to the reports, have been redeployed as necessary to support safe staffing.

Senior clinical support has been made available around the clock and night-staffing is being signed off by the trust’s chief nurse.

The shift fill rate is one of the performance indicators that were reported to the trust board on April 6.

Following the meeting, in response to the data, the trust’s chief nurse Tracey Carter told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The shift fill rate for registered nurses can be affected by many factors, such as staff sickness or absence due to maternity leave.

“It can also vary if additional beds are used for inpatients during extremely busy periods.

“We continuously monitor staffing levels, day and night, to ensure safety for our patients.

“We also redeploy colleagues and make use of temporary staff where necessary.

“We continue to recruit, both locally and internationally, and support colleagues to develop careers in nursing, for example as nursing associates.”

The West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals Trust (WHTHT) operates Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.