MSP warns of ‘dangerous’ staffing levels in Fife health service

A Fife MSP has spoken of ‘dangerous’ staffing levels in the Kingdom - and claims of breaches of health and safety regulations.

Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 7:22 pm

Alex Rowley made his comments in the Scottish Parliament recently, and said he had “serious concerns” around issues raised with him by health union, UNISON.

But NHS Fife rejected the claims, stating it was “unequivocal in our commitment to ensure healthcare services in Fife remain safe.”

It also revealed that demand for hospital services was far higher than before with people presenting often more frail and more acutely unwell than it had seen previously.

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Alex Rowley (Pic: Lisa Ferguson)

The issues raised centre around the implementation of the Health Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Act in June 2019 - the first legislation in the UK to set out requirements for safe staffing across both health and social care services.

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The union told Mr Rowley it was not being implemented, and staffing levels remain at a dangerous level.

In a letter to the Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, it flagged “dangerous staffing levels” as well as staff not getting proper rest breaks;not being given opportunities to report serious incidents on Datix - the NHS electronic incident reporting system - and serious breaches of health and safety regulations.

Intensive Care Ward, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy (Pic: Neil Doig/Fife Free Press)

Mr Rowley said: “I have serious concerns around the issues raised by the letter.

“It seems that this is no longer simply about undue pressure on health and care staff in Fife.

“This is about very serious allegations of dangerous staffing levels and working practices, breaches of health and safety regulations and deeply worrying allegations that serious incidents are not being recorded through the NHS incident reporting system.

“There is little point in introducing legislation if it can simply be ignored and it is essential that NHS Fife answer the allegations raised by UNISON.

Mr Rowley said he had written to the chief executive of NHS Fife to request a response.

The health authority said it had yet to receive his letter, but Dr Christophe McKenna, medical director, said: "The safety of those in our care is our single biggest priority, and we are unequivocal in our commitment to ensure healthcare services in Fife remain safe”

He stressed: “We do not compromise on safety. Within our acute hospital, a daily safety huddle takes place with representatives from every ward to ensure staffing is in place across the entirety of the site, and this is continually monitored over the course of each day.”He said he “wanted to be clear” that staff are not prevented from reporting serious issues - , DATIX is used daily by teams to log a range of issue.

He continued: “There has been considerable effort throughout the pandemic to support the health and wellbeing of our workforce, and the safety of both staff and patients.”

On the issue of staffing, Janette Owens, director of nursing, said work would commence “imminently” on the implementation the Act - it had been delayed due to the pandemic.

And she explained: “We are seeing a far higher demand for services, with those presenting often more frail and more acutely unwell than we have seen previously, and thus requiring a greater intensity of care as a result.

"This is adding significant pressure to services, and placing greater demands on those staff working on our frontline.