Most inpatients on Prospect Park psychiatric wards feel staff treat them kindly but say nurse shortages are affecting their care, according to a patient experience project carried out by Healthwatch Reading and five other local Healthwatch across Berkshire.
More than 40 voluntary or sectioned patients shared their stories with Healthwatch staff and volunteers during visits to four different wards over seven days in late October 2017.
The findings, published in a report on 25 January 2018, show 81% of people (29 out of 36) said they felt hospital staff treated them with dignity and respect, but 62% said they had not had their care and treatment plan explained to them and 8 in 10 had not been given a date for their discharge from hospital.
One patient told Healthwatch: “So far all the staff have treated me with dignity and respect. I was concerned about this as I had a number of issues with staff on a previous stay…. However there has been a big improvement in the attitude and attentiveness of staff. This has eased my stress levels considerably, the only problem is that the ward is often short-staffed so it is the staff who end up getting stressed. More often than not the staff-to-patient ratio is lower than it should be and it can get chaotic on the ward.”
Another patient said they only got to see a doctor once a week. Nurses were ‘amazing’, but ‘understaffed’. “This to me means that I can’t get 1-to-1 time, can’t get off ward as escort not available, staff are tired. Doesn’t feel safe, but only because there are not enough of them. There seem to be more attacks on ward that staff have to deal with.”
Two-thirds of people had been in contact with a community service before coming into hospital, but some felt these did not prevent readmissions. One patient, who had been into hospital five times in six years, said a community psychiatric nurse was only been available once a month and going back home was like “going back to square one”.
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (BHFT), which runs Prospect Park Hospital, has formally responded to 10 recommendations from the six local Healthwatch. It said: ‘There is a national shortage of band 5 newly qualified mental health nurses and this is reflected in the vacancies at Prospect Park Hospital.’ There would also be a four-year wait for new nurses to be trained and local NHS funders had no plans to give the trust any more funding for extra staff.
BHFT added that it was also looking into whether an activity coordinator could be provided to each acute ward from 3pm-11pm, ‘as this is the time when patients tell us they feel restless and need something to do’.
Healthwatch Reading chief executive Mandeep Kaur Sira, said: “By going onto the wards and meeting patients one to one, we have given a voice to seldom-heard people who are affected and isolated by mental illness. Their message was loud and clear: staff are caring, but there are not enough of them.”
The six local Healthwatch carried out the joint project using statutory ‘Enter and View’ powers. The visits were pre-agreed with BHFT management. All patient views are anonymous.