CREWE'S Leighton Hospital is suffering from a staff shortage, according to a borough councillor recently treated at the centre.

But hospital bosses have hit back stating that during the past 18 months £1.75 million has been invested in recruitment, resulting in an increase of 136 nursing posts since 2005.

Leighton ward councillor Derek Bebbington said he was well cared for during his recent stay at the hospital.

He added: "However, I was concerned just how hard and long these nurses were working.

"It was not hard to see that there was a shortage of staff.

"I believe one nurse working nights, had to telephone her off duty colleagues in order to find somebody who could work the next morning.

"I saw nurses finish work at 9.30pm and start again at 6.30 the next morning, a break of just nine hours.

"On the day I was due to leave, I had to wait for my medication to be prepared.

"Not wanting to occupy a bed unnecessarily, I suggested to one of the nurses that I waited in the day room, only to be asked to stay in the bed because the shortage of nurses was causing them so much stress, they could not cope with another patient occupying the bed whilst monitoring me in the day room.

"I was even more shocked to discover that next year the hospital's budget has to be cut by 2.5 per cent.

"Of the 25 student nurses who will finish their three year training in January, only one will be offered a job, for which they all have to compete.

"These nurses have endured three years of long hours, extremely hard work and very bad pay - about £12.000 per year for a year three student nurse.

"How does the management reward their loyalty? By showing them the door.

"I imagine that the managers who made this decision are paid a great deal more and do not work anywhere near as hard as the nurses do.

"If things carry on like this, Leighton Hospital will have more managers than nurses. Not only do the nurses suffer, but the patients, due to lack of care."

A spokesman for the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust said that the budget cuts referred to, relate to savings imposed by the Government, required of all public sector organisations.

Director of nursing, Tracy Bullock, said students who train at Leighton also spend time in community settings such as community hospitals, nursing homes and health centres, where many of them choose to pursue their careers.

She said that 16 student nurses are due to qualify in January and 11 of these have already enrolled on a preceptorship - a programme undertaken by newly qualified staff designed to help build their confidence and independence.

Mrs Bullock added: "Training at a hospital does not automatically secure a post within that hospital, in the same way university students are not guaranteed a job after they graduate.

"However, where appropriate, we always try to give priority to nurses who have undertaken their training at our hospitals."

She said that many nurses opt to work a longer four-day shift, which entitles them to an extra day off.