Agency nurses and bank staff in Cornwall hospitals have been laid off because there is ‘no work’ for them as NHS staff are called out of retirement to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, which runs three hospitals, sent a text message to bank staff to tell them they would no longer be needed as only 50 per cent of its beds are occupied.
The lay-offs follow reports of patients being turned away the NHS Nightingale hospital in London, with 4,000 beds, due to a lack of staff.
It is also feared that many hospitals are operating with fewer staff members than normal as they self-isolate after developing symptoms of coronavirus.
Beds remain empty as hospitals receive fewer admissions, prompting fears that the sickest are avoiding health centres due to Covid-19.
The NHS has said it is still there for patients not suffering on Covid, and called on people to attend hospitals for treatment.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust laid off the staff as only 50 per cent of its beds are full. Pictured above is the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. The trust operates two others
The NHS Kernowflex staff, which form a bank for the Royal Cornwall trust, worked at the Royal Cornwall hospital in Truro, West Cornwall hospital in Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle.
It is not clear whether efforts were made to re-allocate them to a different centre.
A 200-bed NHS Nightingale hospital has been established in Exeter, in neighbouring Devon, which will require additional staffing.
Trust chief executive Kate Shields said she was ‘very grateful’ for all the hard work and dedication of bank staff and colleagues but ‘at the moment we have sufficient staff to meet the needs of our patients’.
‘I am sorry that we didn’t send a message of thanks to our fantastic bank and agency workforce. It was rude of us, and deeply regrettable, to inform people by text,’ she said.
‘It was not in line with our values and a very impersonal way of telling a fantastic,dedicated group of staff that we do not need them at the moment but we do most definitely value them and the vital role they play.’
The lay-offs come amid fears of staff shortages at NHS Nightingales and calls for retired doctors and nurses to return to the frontlines
NHS Nightingale in London reportedly turned away 30 patients from Northwick Park hospital, alongside others at The Royal Free hospital St Mary’s the Royal London and North Middlesex hospital reportedly due to a reported lack of intensive care nurses.
A further six Nightingales have also been built across the country, requiring additional staff to run them.
The NHS has also appealed to retired doctors and nurses for them to come out of retirement to help fight the pandemic.
NHS hospitals had four times more empty beds than normal on 13 April, reports the Health Service Journal, as trusts worked to free up spaces and registered a slowdown in admissions.
Hospitals also worked to rapidly discharge patients and cancelled operations to free up space. Since then, many trusts have seen record lows in the number of people attending A&E.
NHS England said in March 2020 it had seen a 29.4 per cent drop in admissions to A&E to 1,531,100. This is the lowest number of attendances on record.
They also reported a 23 per cent drop in emergency admissions, to 427,921, compared to the same month last year.
There have been reports of NHS Nightingale in London, pictured, turning away patients due to a lack of staff
Responding to the figures, NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens stressed that the service is still there for patients without coronavirus who need urgent and emergency services for stroke, heart attack, and other deadly conditions.
‘While NHS staff have pulled out all the stops to deal with coronavirus they have also worked hard to ensure that patients who don’t have COVID-19 can safely access essential services,’ he said.
‘So whether you or loved one have the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, are a parent worried about their child or have concerns about conditions such as cancer you should seek help in the way you always would.’
Doctors and nurses have also appealed to the public to attend hospitals if they are unwell, so that they get the lifesaving treatment they need.
As many as 171,253 people in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus, and 26,771 have died from the disease.
More than a hundred NHS staff have also lost their lives fighting the pandemic.
An NHS London spokesperson said: ‘The most important point about staff at the Nightingale is that thanks to their care and expertise, patients in that hospital are being successfully treated, discharged and ultimately having their life saved.’
MailOnline has asked both Royal Cornwall hospitals and NHS Kernowflex whether any efforts were made to re-allocate the staff.