Thursday 22 February 2024
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Hospital staff being asked to take holidays before winter pressures hit

Thousands of staff at Nottingham’s hospitals are being encouraged to take unused annual leave so they are rested before winter pressures strike.

Duncan Orme, Acting Chief Finance Officer at Nottingham University Hospitals, says that the costs of the pandemic are “still very much with us”.

Mr Orme said his priorities following the worst of the crisis are supporting the board in looking at issues raised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – which has rated the trust as a whole as ‘requires improvement’ – as well as tackling growing waiting lists and maintaining a focus on long-term financial sustainability.

Another priority is ensuring the trust’s 17,000 staff can take their annual leave so they are well rested for the winter period.

During the pandemic, some staff struggled to take their full allowance of annual leave due to Covid-19 pressures, so an increased number of days were allowed to be carried over to the following year.

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But Mr Orme stressed the importance of staff being able to take their leave – and added it has an impact on staffing and finances.

He said the trust – which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital – has set aside £15m in the last financial year to pay for annual leave not yet taken, to cover the funding for bank or agency staff.

Mr Orme added: “It is so important that our staff take their breaks and look after their wellbeing so that as we move into the winter people have been able to take their holidays and get appropriately rested.

“During the pandemic, that didn’t happen. People carried more leave into the new year than we would have expected.

“Given the size of our workforce, when you add all that up it’s an enormous sum of money.

“The focus is that staff take their annual leave and get themselves in a good place ready for whatever this winter holds for us.”

NUH is anticipating a £12.3m deficit for 2022/23 after the Government stepped in to help with £28m of support for energy-related inflation pressures.

Pre pandemic, in 2019/20, the trust broke even, with an underlying £30m deficit.

Mr Orme said the trust set aside £23m this year to pay for staff sickness, cleaning costs and putting in different pathways to ensure patients are moved through the hospital efficiently.

He added: “We have had to step up our cleaning. So far this year, over and above our normal cleaning, we have spent £1m.

“During the pandemic, new cleaning standards were issued and the trust is spending about £2.2m more a year on cleaning than it did before the pandemic.

“The feedback we receive is that the hospitals look far cleaner than before.

“We are supported on that and other costs from additional funding via the ICS this year.”

NHS leaders have repeatedly warned this winter is unlikely to see seasonal demand fall back to pre-Covid levels.

This is because hospitals across the country are still likely to face a rise in Covid patients alongside the regular extra pressure brought about by increases in serious illnesses linked to seasonal influenza.

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