Contingency plans are implemented across Community Hospitals

Contingency plans are being implemented to safely manage care provided at Community Hospitals across north Cumbria.

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, CPFT, has confirmed that as a result of staff shortages, it is taking a number of actions to sustain the safe provision of services across its community hospitals including joining staff and patients from two inpatient units.   The following changes will be implemented on a temporary basis week commencing 1st August.

  • All six in-patient beds and in-patient staff from Alston Community Hospital are being consolidated at Brampton Community Hospital. This will enable us to increase the number of beds operational at Brampton from 10 to 15. 
  • Keswick Minor Injury Unit (MIU) will adjust its opening hours slightly to 8.30 – 19.00 7 days a week (from 08.00 - 20.00) in order that the nursing staff can maintain its 12 beds and continue to operate the MIU.
  • The nurse led treatment service at Alston Hospital will move from being a 24 hour service to operating Monday to Friday 08.00 – 16.30. The day hospital and community nursing services will both continue to operate.  

We are also closely monitoring and reviewing options at some of our other fragile hospitals including Maryport and Cockermouth Hospitals.  However we are doing everything we can to avoid having to make further temporary changes.
Overall, these changes will improve the sustainability and stability of the remaining units given the current staffing issues. 

Dr Sara Munro, Director of Nursing & Quality said,  “It is well known that we have been operating our inpatient units with significant staff shortages for some time.  However, we are now experiencing unprecedented shortages in qualified nursing staff of 40% on five of our units and rising to 59% at Alston.  We have more vacancies than we usually have at the moment which is being compounded by annual leave and sickness at a small number of sites.  Due to the small nature of our units, the staff shortages are amplified when there are only one or two nurses on duty as there is no backup available to them should we experience increased sickness.” 

“The quality and safety of services for patients is our overriding priority and clearly these staffing levels are insufficient to continue to operate all units safely from next week.  We recognise the significant disruption this will have for patients at Alston and we know that the community will feel let down but we want to provide reassurance that we have done everything we can to keep the unit open."  

Patients at Alston are being reviewed and a care package put in place around each patient according to their needs. Patients will either be transferred to a different unit, or discharged home or to a residential care home where appropriate.

The Trust has already taken a number of steps to improve the situation including additional recruitment, mobilising staff from other services to cover absence, utilising bank staff where appropriate, and seeking assistance from partners.  Several vacancies have recently been filled on CPFT’s inpatient units, including five nurses (RGNs) and a number of leadership positions. Other organisations have also been approached to provide some staff to temporarily fill vacancies. While this has provided some relief, it has not been sufficient to cover safe staffing levels.  

Claire Molloy, Chief Executive said, “Staff across our inpatient units and community services have gone above and beyond their roles to ensure services can continue with safe staffing levels for an extended period. We are incredibly grateful for their dedication and continued hard work, however this is not sustainable and we are beginning to see the signs of stress in our staff due to the additional demands being placed on them.” 

 “The contingency plans offer a temporary solution to immediate challenges and we are absolutely clear that this does not pre-empt any decision that needs to be made about the long term future of these services.  At Alston we have nursing staff taking up posts with us at the end of August and so it is our ambition to re-open the unit there in September.  However, this will depend on any additional staffing issues that may crop up before then and so we do need to keep this under review.”

In the meantime we continue to provide updates and remain optimistic as we actively recruit and look for alternative solutions. Beds will be reopened as soon as we are able to guarantee safe staffing levels and we are doing everything we can do achieve this. We are reviewing the situation regularly and we are appealing to our partners and the community to support our staff who are working very hard and help us spread the word about the posts we have available within our hospitals.” 

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