AN independent inspection of Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust found there was not enough staff in the North Wiltshire community services team.
The Care Quality Commission inspection also found care and treatment to patients was not consistently delivered to ensure their safety and welfare. As a result the CQC has ordered action to be taken on improving staffing levels.
The commission inspection took place over an 11-day period in January and February and was of community teams in North Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset and North Bristol. The inspection followed previous visits over the last two years when concerns were first raised about staffing and continuity of care. The North Wiltshire team covers Malmesbury, Wootton Bassett, Chippenham, Calne and Marlborough.
The report, published on March 18, said: “Most of the staff in the three teams we visited felt that staffing levels had improved and caseloads were now more manageable.
“However some staff, particularly in North Wiltshire, told us that they were concerned about their workload and the effect this had on them as workers and on the service they could provide.”
The CQC inspectors said the team manager position in the North Wiltshire team had been vacant and the senior practitioner was struggling to fulfil his supervisory responsibilities, while carrying a large caseload.
The managerial post had been filled shortly after the CQC visit but the manager had been working on other commitments for the last three months and had recently been seconded to another position for six months. A temporary manager had been identified, but was absent.
Since November 2013 the team had been understaffed by between 25 and 30 per cent due to sickness and maternity leave and individual caseloads had increased with some staff having caseloads in the mid to late 30s; the CQC was told that a caseload of between 25 and 29 was acceptable.
One staff member said: “Team morale is not good; some members of staff are close to breaking point.”
The report said: “Some people were dissatisfied with infrequent or irregular contact with the service and the lack of continuity.
“Some people still experienced difficulty accessing the service and some people were anxious about the prospect of being discharged and not being able to access support.”
A spokesman for AWP said: “We were aware of the issues raised in the report, which is part of an ongoing inspection programme for AWP’s community services. “The latest report acknowledges improvements in access to, and quality of community services and we have taken immediate action to ensure full-time management cover in North Wiltshire. A Trust-wide action plan has been submitted and we look forward to further CQC feedback on improvements made.”