Health secretary slammed for Ipswich Hospital tweet about safe staffing levels

Health minister Jeremy Hunt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Health minister Jeremy Hunt. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Jeremy Hunt has come under fire for a post he put on social media following a private visit to Ipswich Hospital.

The health secretary tweeted a colour-coded rota put together by the NHS trust that appeared to show serious workforce gaps and praised it as “really clever use of technology to ensure safe staffing levels”.

The post has so far attracted 1,800 mostly negative comments.

Jack Frost wrote: “You do know this spreadsheet exposes the terrible staffing levels don’t you Jeremy? Clue: see the red bits!”

Catriona Thompson added: “Do you really believe that the place is safer just because the multitude of rota gaps are shown on a screen in pretty colours? Really? Please don’t tell me you do.”

While Ben White, an NHS doctor in London, simply asked: “You do understand what that sheet is actually saying, don’t you Jeremy?”

Labour MP for Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth, mocked: “Really clever use of twitter to show how understaffed our NHS actually is.”

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However, Jan Ingle, head of communications at Ipswich Hospital, said the rota was a dummy that was presented to Mr Hunt during his visit this week as an example of one of the tools the trust used to monitor staffing levels.

She said: “This is a patient safety tool, just one of many ways we make sure our staff levels are safe. What was shown was an example.

“It’s used daily by the senior nurses and clinicians and we would take immediate action if any reds were showing.”

The Department for Health was approached but did not wish to comment.

The NHS workforce crisis was laid bare when new figures showed more than 3,000 nurses in the East of England quit their jobs during 2016/17.

This was the first time since 2012/13 that the number of leavers outweighed the starters.

During an interview with the BBC, Lisa Nobes, director of nursing at Ipswich Hospital, said the trust was losing four nurses a month.

Mr Hunt also visited Broomfield Hospital this week where he was met by protestors from the Defend our NHS Chelmsford campaign.

The activists wanted to send a message to Mr Hunt that they opposed the proposed merger between Broomfield, Basildon and Southend hospitals.