STAFF appraisals at an NHS trust risk being delayed or conducted to lower standards because time and resources have been diverted to fighting coronavirus, reports say.

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust’s board will receive documents saying, of the staff who were due to receive their annual assessments in February,  88 per cent actually received them and this fell to 86 per cent the following month, and the picture is “likely to worsen”. The target is 95 per cent.

Deputy director of nursing and quality Alison Trumper says rates were improving before the Covid-19 pandemic, and work will continue to reverse the decline, but “this may be more challenging at the current time”.

A separate report from head of governance and risk Stanley Mukwenya warns “staff reassignments and high workload demands” may “negatively impact on the quality of appraisals”.

Diagrams accompanying Ms Trumper’s report show the appraisal completion rate reached its lowest point of 2018-19 in October, when it hit 84 per cent, but it peaked at just under 90 per cent in January this year.

“It is likely appraisals will experience a worsening picture during the coronavirus period and that, prior to this, our performance was on an improving trajectory,” the report says.

“Although a recovery plan was in place to focus on these areas, and work will continue to improve the overall situation, this may be more challenging at the current time and context of the current operational priorities [sic].”

Five teams fell below the “10 per cent tolerance threshold level” below the target rate, it adds.

Ludlow Hotel Services – the department that includes porters and housekeepers – appraised 14 out of 24 eligible staff within date, a rate of 58 per cent.

Community Equipment Stores had 67 per cent, the inpatient ward teams at Bishops Castle and Ludlow community hospitals had rates of 68 per cent and 75 per cent respectively, while the Telford Community Neighbourhood Team South had 70 per cent.

The trust’s board will meet virtually on Thursday, June 4, when it will discuss Ms Trumper’s report and a Governance Report by Mr Mukwenya.

In a section that lists risks currently facing the trust, and mitigating actions planned or in progress, it says: “There is a risk staff reassignments and high workload demands due to Covid-19 may impact negatively on the quality of appraisals, assurance of staff competence, engagement and confidence from regulators. 

As part of the mitigation actions, the report says, “wellbeing support communication [is] being disseminated to staff” and “we are using daily communications to get out messages to encourage people to complete as and when it is appropriate.”