SERIOUS failings have been identified in Poole Hospital’s operating theatres, the trust has revealed.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an unannounced inspection of the trust’s theatres in June and has now set out a list of urgent improvements required by November this year.

While the regulator’s report has yet to be published, the concerns are understood to relate to governance and quality assurance arrangements, risk recording, management of medicines, infection control, staff training and support and general maintenance.

The trust’s chief executive Debbie Fleming said the hospital had faced difficulties recruiting enough staff, particularly theatre assistants, nurses and anaesthetists, and has been without a permanent theatre manager since February.

“We have been formally told they require us to deliver significant improvements by the Autumn,” she said.

“Fundamentally our staffing situation is challenging in some significant areas.

“There is a national shortage of theatre staff. At the same time demand for theatre services goes up all the time. Our trauma services are really under immense pressure.

“Staff are under pressure and morale in theatres has been poor.”

She said staff had been frustrated by delays in theatre, caused in part by checklists which have become “cumbersome” and “overly bureaucratic”.

When inspectors visited, she said, there were “lots of minor things” in theatres which needed fixing, and while risks identified by staff had been dealt with they were not marked off.

“I don’t want to downplay it, all these things are important,” she said.

“Our very experienced, long-standing theatre manager left in February, we haven’t yet recruited into that post. The leadership has not been as strong as it normally would be.”

Ms Fleming said the problems had already been identified and were being dealt with when the inspection took place, and that “none resulted in serious harm”.

She said she was confident the CQC would see “significant improvement across a number of areas” on its return.

“It is very clear that things have already improved. Some things are not going to be fixed quickly, we can’t magic up staff by November.”

She added: “Poole provides a wide range of hospital services and the vast majority are performing extremely well.”

Poole and the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals are currently in negotiations with the Competition and Markets Authority about merging services, and are also subject to controversial planned reorganisation as part of the NHS Dorset Clinical Services Review.

Ms Fleming said the difficulties facing the trust could be better mitigated if these proposals were to go ahead.

“This is a very good example of how two hospitals can do better working together, we can better cover areas where one trust is struggling to recruit.

“We all recognise that the NHS needs more investment and it needs to be used in the right place.

“I think Dorset has a very good local plan and we can use our resources better if we make the changes which have been discussed with the public, if we have one hospital dealing with emergencies and one with planned care.”