'Chronic understaffing' leaving patients 'at risk' and trainee doctors 'scared' at new hospital

Watch: ITV Correspondent Rob Osborne reports on the publication of the leaked report.

"Chronic understaffing" at Wales' newest hospital is leaving patients "at risk" and trainee doctors "scared to go to work", a leaked report has revealed.

The Grange University Hospital in Cwmbran opened in November 2020 - four months earlier than planned - as part of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board's response to the Covid pandemic.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) report, which is based on a virtual visit held in June, found that staff felt they were being ignored after repeatedly raised concerns over staffing.

The RCP said almost all of the trainee doctors it spoke to would not want to return to work for the same health board.

It comes as a second report leaked to ITV Wales found similar issues at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, which falls under the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

Consultants there were described as some of the "unhappiest" the report's author had ever spoken to.

The Grange has the only emergency department in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area. Credit: Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

'I worry about the safety of the patients'

A consultant physician told the RCP that they are "firefighting staffing crises every day".

One trainee said: "Patients are at risk - that's what makes me scared to go to work.

"I'm concerned about my patients, but it falls on deaf ears. When we escalated our concerns, they did not listen to us - worse than that, we were shut down."

Another added: "I love this hospital, but I've lost a lot of trust in the health board and its leadership. I worry about the safety of the patients coming into this hospital."

A consultant physician said: "There was this almighty push to open the Grange come hell or high water. It was complete madness."

There were serious concerns for the safety of patients.

'There is simply not enough staff'

Dr Andrew Goddard, RCP president, said: "Some trainees told us that they were scared to come to work.

"In my eight years at the RCP I've visited hundreds of different hospitals - and I had never heard that before."

Dr Olwen Williams, vice president, added: "This was a difficult visit, with some powerful testimonies from trainees, physician associates and consultant physicians alike.

"The workload at the Grange is much higher than anticipated and there is simply not enough staff."

The report also found that a lack of general medicine and care of the elderly medicine is likely to have a negative effect on the quality of patient care for frail, older people in the future. 

It said there was a strong sense of anger, frustration and unhappiness at a perceived lack of genuine clinical engagement and action from the health board.

Some consultants felt demoralised and let down, and were considering leaving the health board.

The health board said it is working to resolve the issues raised.

Earlier this month, the Welsh Government announced the health board's chief executive, Judith Paget, as the new NHS Wales Chief Executive and Director General for Health and Social Services.

In the report, staff criticised the chief executive and senior management, saying they could not get access to them, raising questions over her promotion.

The Welsh Government said both health boards have taken the reports "extremely seriously" and have drawn up action to address the recommendations.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board stressed that the report was created during the pandemic, which has "significantly" disrupted services.

They added that it was aware of the concerns outlined and is working on solutions, including addressing staff shortages.

But they said it has taken the findings of the very "seriously", and reassured patients that health care meets "high standards".

They said: "I would like to thank our staff for the amazing work they are doing at a time when the whole NHS is under significant pressure."