THE Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has issued a warning about insufficient staffing in the NHS in the wake of a mental health trust being downgraded.

Earlier this week, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEVW)NHS Foundation Trust being rated as "requiring improvement" by the Care Quality Commission.

It had previously been rated as "good" but inspectors said some services had deteriorated.

Among the concerns raised were ones over staffing, workload and delays. 

Glenn Turp, Northern regional director of the RCN: "The CQC has rightly highlighted some very serious concerns and failings which call into question whether this trust can provide safe patient care.

“After the very tragic and sad deaths of two vulnerable patients last year and the findings of the CQC, the trust and NHS commissioners must take immediate action to ensure patient and staff safety.

"They have a responsibility not to commission and open new beds with insufficient nursing staff to provide safe patient care.

“Having the right number of nursing staff with the right skills in the right place at the right time is critical to protecting patients.

"It also protects those staff who too often find themselves struggling to maintain services in the face of nursing vacancies.

"Where safe care cannot be provided then bed closures may be a last resort to protect patients.

“Until action is taken by the regulator, commissioners and the NHS then patients remain at high risk of detriment and potentially serious harm."

The RCN, which is the UK’s biggest professional nursing union, says the nurse shortage is putting the quality and safety of patient care at risk and leaving many nursing staff with unsustainably high workloads.

The college wants to see a law introduced that makes clear who is responsible in health and care systems nationally and locally for ensuring the supply and deployment of nurses in sufficient numbers.

Mr Turp added: “Time and again, inadequate staffing levels are highlighted by the CQC in their inspection reports.

"In the face of a nursing workforce crisis it is impossible to see when and where new staff will come from or how existing staff can be retained and supported.

“The RCN’s Staffing for Safe and Effective Care campaign has been highlighting the nursing workforce crisis to politicians and the public.

"Ultimately, the Westminster government must act now and enshrine safe staffing levels in law in England.”

TEWV was inspected last year. In the report, published this week, concerns  were raised over staff workload and waiting times.

Following publication of the report, Colin Martin, chief executive of the trust, said it was making changes around staffing and recruitment, as well the progression of building projects.

Commenting on the CQC report, he said: “We’ve already made changes since the inspection, including work around staffing, recruitment and the progression of building projects to replace those highlighted in the report.

"We know that there is more to do and that there will always be opportunities to further improve. We are committed to doing this with a key focus on patient safety and responsive services."