More than £850,000 is to be invested in additional nursing staff at Central Lancashire’s two hospitals.

The board at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust gave the go-ahead for the recruitment drive in order to ensure the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals are meeting safe staffing levels.   

The extra nurses will be brought into the Accident and Emergency unit at the Royal Preston and the children and young people’s departments across both sites.

Preston’s A&E will get almost 15 additional full-time equivalent posts, some of which will be deployed in the three new areas which have recently opened in the unit – including a rapid assessment facility for triaging patients when they first arrive.

The extra 20 full-time equivalent staff in the children’s departments will include a paediatric nurse to be stationed during peak periods at both of the region’s A&E units.

The additional cash comes in spite of a previous investment of £8.4m during 2017/18 not bringing staffing up to the intended level.   But board members were told that the money had been spent covering shifts with temporary staff to ensure patient safety.

“There have been many positive outcomes of that investment – including improved ratings [from the regulator] and better patient experiences,” Gail Naylor, nursing and midwifery director, told a meeting of the trust’s board.

“We have been able to demonstrate that where we have managed to recruit [the necessary] staff, those staff have a much more positive experience – and that leads to them staying with the trust.”

Members heard that the trust was not expecting to have difficulties recruiting  the latest crop of additional staff – because of the popularity of the posts which would be on offer.

Staffing levels are dictated, in part, by national guidelines.   But every ward and department has been asked for its input on the numbers required in their own areas.

Tim Watkinson, a non-executive director of the board, asked for reassurance that “the natural desire to increase rather than to scale back” had been challenged.

Sarah Cullen, deputy director of nursing, said the process had been “rigorous” – and had involved the deployment of new roles to account for a national shortage of registered nurses.

“More often than not, staff will say they need more.   And while it is not always appropriate to take out [staff numbers] in their entirety, there are opportunities for safe approaches to efficiency,” she said.

The introduction of roles like discharge facilitators – to speed up the process of getting patients out of hospital – has contributed to £532,000 in savings on staff.   That has reduced the overall level of additional investment required from £1.3m to the £854,000 which now needs to be found.

The trust’s annual nursing staff bill will stand at £61.8m after the new staff have been recruited.