Queen Elizabeth University Hospital: Two deaths in one month blamed on NHS Glasgow staffing issues

Staffing issues at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital may have contributed to two deaths in a single month, according to internal NHS figures.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information legislation show between July 18 and August 18, there were 336 incidents in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) health board area which were blamed on either staffing levels or “an inappropriate skill mix” among staff.

These incidents – defined as an unexpected or avoidable event that could have resulted, or did result in, unnecessary serious harm or death of a patient, staff, visitors or members of the public – are logged by NHSGGC staff using software called Datix.

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The reason for the incident occurring is also recorded by staff and, in the cases of two deaths at the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), the incidents were recorded as being due to “staffing/inappropriate skill mix” issues.

Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
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Although later investigations may lead to the deaths being blamed on other issues, the Datix system logs show members of staff believed staffing levels and a lack of relevant skills were to blame at the time of the deaths.

Scottish Labour public health spokesperson Paul O’Kane said: “These tragic figures lay bare the cost of the workforce crisis engulfing our NHS. Lives have been lost, patients have been hurt, and dozens more catastrophes were narrowly avoided.

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“NHS workforce is overstretched and undervalued, and these terrifying figures are a glimpse of what will happen on a larger scale if the Scottish Government’s negligence continues. Our worst fears are already being realised, and things will only get worse as we head into winter.

“Hard-working NHS staff are being put in these impossible positions because of the SNP Government’s failure. Humza Yousaf must act now before winter begins.”

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In addition, there were 59 “near misses” recorded across the health board, which according to NHSGGC is “an occurrence that might have led to harm, damage or loss, but did not happen due to discovery, chance or skilful management”. There were a further 14 incidents causing illness or injury, ten of which were at QEUH.

A spokesperson for NHSGGC said: “We would like to extend our sympathy to families who have lost a loved one in our hospitals. Staff members are encouraged to report incidents, including staffing issues, on the Datix incident reporting system.

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“However, an issue may be resolved quickly and the Datix report is not updated to show this. Therefore, while the Datix reports are a useful record of concerns about staffing, they may not give an entirely accurate picture of the situation.

“Investigations into the circumstances surrounding the two deaths are ongoing. However, we cannot comment further due to patient confidentiality.”

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Staffing levels are an issue across the entirety of NHS Scotland, not just in the NHSGGC health board. The NHS is facing record accident-and-emergency waiting times, strike actions from nurses, paramedics and doctors, as well as spiralling delayed discharge numbers due to staff shortages in care settings – and all before the expected surge in coronavirus and influenza hits Scotland this winter.

Earlier this week, a Scottish Government spokesperson said “pandemic backlogs, Brexit-driven staff shortages, and inflation costs have all contributed to make this the most challenging winter the NHS has ever faced”.



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