Why is it so difficult to recruit and retain staff?

Across the country, there is a national shortage of nurses and doctors, especially within emergency department specialties.

Whilst some specialities are predicted to have adequate national training numbers coming through over the next five years (obstetrics and gynaecology, for example) to meet anticipated staffing needs, it still does not guarantee recruitment to Epsom and St Helier hospitals at all, or in a timely manner; nor is it reflected in all specialties.

Locally we have additional problems by having nearly all the same services at both hospitals. This means that we need to have staff to cover both sites 24/7, seven days a week. Staff working on a rota have to do more unsociable hours than their colleagues in other hospitals. This causes a lack of balance between work and home life. Other hospitals are therefore more attractive to work at, so we struggle to recruit and keep staff. In addition, potential staff are concerned the lack of certainty about the future of the hospitals. Until we complete a consultation, consider the feedback and make a decision, we cannot reassure many potential recruits.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) considers the proper staffing of the Emergency Department as the single most important factor in providing a high quality, timely and clinically effective service to patients.

Epsom and St Helier hospitals cannot meet the consultant workforce standards for major acute services across two sites and has a shortage of 25 consultants in emergency department, acute medicine and intensive care. This aligns with national standards for the emergency department. For emergency departments, RCEM recommends 12-16 consultants to provide cover 16 hours a day, 365 days of the year.