HOSPITALS caring for some of Glasgow’s most vulnerable patients have hit “crisis” levels of staff shortages, union leaders have warned. 

It comes after Evening Times figures showed wards caring for psychiatric patients are understaffed by an average of 162 bank nurses every month.

Data shows almost 4000 shifts have not been filled in the past two years, heaping pressure on permanent staff. On March 3, last year, the number of unfilled shifts recorded was 243.

We submitted a freedom of information request to ask how many bank shifts were not being filled each month after staff came forward claiming patient safety was being compromised at one Glasgow unit.

Unison said the latest figures re-inforced a “crisis” in the staffing of mental health services across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

NHS workers said they did not have enough staff for “special observations” or 24-hour monitoring, which they warned was putting those patients at risk and compromising the care of other patients.

Nurses claim bank shifts are regularly unfilled because agency staff favour evening and weekend shifts which pay higher rates.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde provides in-patient mental health care at a number of dedicated hospitals including Leverndale, Parkhead and Dykebar as well as wards within hospitals including Gartnavel General.

In May, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was fined £100,000 after two patients, aged 27 and 44, took their own lives in Dykebar Hospital and Stobhill.

The health board acknowledged that it had failed to 
carry out proper observations, leading to the two deaths.

Figures show in June there were 193 shifts unfilled, compared with 128 in May, which may be linked to holiday cover shortages.  

The total number of unfilled shifts from July 2015 to June, this year, was 3892 shifts. 

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said that for the period covered by the figures, 90% of the available shifts were covered by the bank.

Matt Mclaughlin, Unison branch secretary for NHSGGC, said: “These latest figures show once again that successive governments and NHS bosses have totally failed to plan for the increase in retirements and that mental health services across the health board are in crisis. 

“Unison continues to lobby for more staff, support for community services and honest and adequate workforce planning.” 

A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “Patient safety is our priority and if a patient requires additional support throughout the day we also have the flexibility to move patients and staff to other wards to maintain patient safety.
 “In the period in question more than 90% of the available shifts within mental health were covered by the Nurse Bank.”