CAMPAIGNERS are demanding answers after health watchdogs claimed that staff
shortages at Southampton General Hospital were putting patients in danger.

The hospital is one of 17 that have been named and shamed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which has accused NHS trusts of failing to employ enough staff to keep patients safe.

A CQC report says inspectors visiting Southampton General Hospital found there were not enough staff on duty to meet people’s needs.

It adds: “We were told that staff responded as quickly as could be expected but that response times were worse in the mornings when people needed help.

“On another ward we were told there were not enough staff, not enough resources and that staff were run ragged.

“We were also told about an incident when people had received meals late – lunch at 1500 hours – due to shortages of staff.”

Now campaigners are demanding to know how many wards were under-staffed and what action, if any, has been taken to tackle the issue.

John Denham, Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, added: “The hospital has got to sort this out and quickly.

“There’s a lot of confusion and mess in the health service at the moment and it’s very difficult for people running big institutions, but patients have to come first and staffing levels have to be put right.

“The big concern at this time of year is that more people are likely to end up in hospital after suffering falls or developing an infection.”

Members of the Southampton Pensioners’ Alliance voiced similar fears.

The secretary, Don Harper, said: “We’re coming up to the winter when a lot more people go into hospital. If there aren’t enough staff to look after them it’s going to make the situation even worse.”

Southampton General and 16 other sites across the UK were issued with warnings following the CQC visits. Inspectors said the hospitals did not have enough staff “to keep people safe and meet their health and welfare needs”.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the NHS now had 7,000 fewer nurses than when the Coalition came to power in May 2010.

But the Government hit back, claiming the number of clinical staff had actually risen in the past two years.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “There can be no excuse for not providing appropriate staffing levels when there are more clinical staff working than there were in 2010, including nearly 5,000 more doctors and almost 900 extra midwives.

The CQC inspection at Southampton General Hospital took place in October.

Last night the NHS Confederation, which represents managers, said it was “absolutely convinced” that all the hospitals named by the commission would have taken immediate action to improve staffing levels.

A Southampton General Hospital spokesman was unavailable for comment.