PATIENT safety is being put at risk by a catalogue of issues including a lack of experienced staff leading to “many mistakes”, concerned NHS workers have said.

The number of patient safety concerns raised by staff across the Mid and South Essex Trust has almost doubled from 17 to 31 in the last 12 months.

Among the complaints, highlighted in a report, was a perception the number of staff has not increased in line with the rise in patients being treatment.

Experienced staff who had left the trust are said to be replaced with inexperienced, improperly trained staff who were not managed well, “contributing to many mistakes impacting on patient care standards”.

A case reported to the Guardian Service in February last year involved a reduction in clinical performance after a merger of departments which included “seriously poor outcomes for patients including increased mortality rates”.

Staff alleged “cultural differences, communication issues, task allocation and team dynamics” all led to reduced patient care standards. Concerns were also raised about the robustness of drug storage in a mental health unit and deceased patients “not being treated with respect”.

Following the publication of the Guardian Service report by Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, Unison warned issues “will only get worse” unless urgent action is taken to boost staff numbers as a matter of urgency. 

'Understaffing and tightening budgets sparking rise in complaints'

Sam Older, Unison eastern regional organiser, said: “The rising numbers of safety concerns reported to guardians takes place against a backdrop of tightening budgets, understaffing and plummeting morale.

“This is only going to get worse as more vacancies go unfilled and wards are increasingly expected to operate on a skeleton staff.

“The trust must take these seriously but the report only covers the issues raised through Freedom to Speak Up guardians and there are still outstanding concerns we’ve raised about safety, bank shifts, job evaluations, vacancy management, parking charges and more that must also be addressed as a matter or urgency.”

'Promoting the service has increased the number of cases reported'

Matthew Hopkins, chief executive of the Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, said: “Our first priority is providing the highest quality care for our patients. We know that an open and honest culture, where our staff feel safe to raise concerns, enables us to continuously improve the care we provide. The confidential and independent Guardian Service works alongside our own Freedom to Speak Up Champions to help support staff to raise concerns.

“Over the last year we have promoted the service, which has successfully increased the number of cases being reported to the Guardian Service. In turn, this has helped to improve the speak up culture within our hospitals.”