Aberdeen hospital leadership and staffing slammed

Staffing levels and leadership at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary have been called unacceptable by the Health Minister. Picture: Contributed

Staffing levels and leadership at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary have been called unacceptable by the Health Minister. Picture: Contributed

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SERIOUS problems around staffing levels and leadership at a major hospital are unacceptable and will be resolved, the Health Secretary has told MSPs.

Shona Robison was responding to a damning report about Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) which called for NHS Grampian to take urgent action.

The review of the hospital by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), chaired by Dr Angus Cameron, was announced in June, with its findings published yesterday.

In a statement to Holyrood, Ms Robison said: “The picture painted by Dr Cameron’s team is a worrying one.

“It describes a climate of mistrust between clinicians and senior managers in several specialities, unprofessional behaviour by a number of consultants which impacted on morale and the effectiveness of the service, and which went largely unchallenged, and a failure to respond effectively to concerns about staffing pressures and vacancies.

“There is also evidence that managers were distant, trainees were inadequately supported, complaints were poorly handled and that systems of governance and performance management were weak, muddled or indeed absent.”

She added: “Make no mistake, these things are unacceptable in the NHS in Scotland and they will be resolved.

“Let me also send a clear message that no matter who you are or at what level you work in the NHS, these behaviours highlighted in the HIS review will not be tolerated in our National Health Service.”

Ms Robison said NHS Grampian had given assurances that all 13 recommendations from the review had been accepted, with work already under way to address them.

The health board also accepts the recommendations of a separate HIS report into services for older people in acute hospitals, and those made by the Royal College of Surgeons of England following its review of general surgery.

The minister said concerns around nursing levels and vacancy rates were being addressed, and there is active recruitment to fill vacant posts using “every means possible”.

NHS Grampian is also receiving record funding to support its recruitment efforts, and a comprehensive support team has been put in place to work with its interim chief executive Malcolm Wright to help develop and strengthen leadership.

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The appointment of a new chair for the board has also been fast-tracked.

Ms Robison added that the findings of the review “must be seen as a vindication of our unflinching resolve to shine a light on poor practice through the systematic use of independent inspection processes and to hold to account those healthcare providers who fail to provide the quality of care the people of Scotland deserve”.

She added: “I am confident that NHS Grampian can turn around this situation.”

Labour’s Neil Findlay said: “This week’s three reports into NHS Grampian and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary paint a grim picture of the NHS in the north-east.

“There appears to be a small group of consultants at this hospital who think they are above the rules that apply to everyone else.”

He called on systematic failings to be identified early, and measures to be put in place so that people did not have to “rely on a powerful group of consultants with a hotline to a friendly minister to expose failings that have an impact on the welfare of patients and staff”.

Conservative MSP Nanette Milne said: “It is reassuring that the reports about NHS Grampian are clear that, to date, patient safety has not been compromised and that is due to the hard work of its loyal staff.

“I am pleased that NHS Grampian has already undertaken to act on all the recommendations made to it. SNP ministers are ultimately responsible for the NHS in Scotland and they must work to address the increasing problems we are facing in our health service.”

Alex Salmond, MSP for Aberdeenshire East, said problems had been identified before any impact on patient safety.

“Isn’t it incumbent on every member of the chamber to rally behind (NHS Grampian) staff and the new leadership of NHS Grampian and take matters forward,” he said.

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