A new probe has started into whether staffing problems at Bradford Royal Infirmary which were highlighted by a watchdog are symptomatic of wider issues at the hospital as the Royal College of Nursing said it has repeatedly raised concerns about the issue.

The investigation by Monitor follows a damning report released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) yesterday after it made unannounced visits to Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) in September and October.

It said Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust failed in four of six areas looked at by CQC inspectors, who visited several wards at the Duckworth Lane hospital.

One of the failures was staffing, for which a formal warning was issued. The CQC said a lack of qualified, skilled and experienced staff would have “a major impact on people who use the service.”

Regional director for the Royal College of Nursing in Yorkshire and the Humber, Glenn Turp, said: “Unfortunately this report from the CQC doesn’t come as a surprise. For some time now our members have been reporting concerns about staffing levels and skill mix at this Trust. The RCN has repeatedly drawn attention to the crucial need for safe staffing levels to be maintained.

He said many trusts were “down to the bone” in terms of the number of frontline staff.

“Naturally staff at BRI will be concerned by the CQC report. Nurses want to deliver high- quality care and try their best to do so, despite difficult and challenging circumstances.

“The Trust has told us that it is now addressing the issues raised and today we have written to the chief nurse asking for an urgent meeting to discuss this report. In order to avoid similar unacceptable situations, then the NHS must also act to address the unsafe and dangerous crisis in nurse staffing.”

Referring to the Accident & Emergency department, the CQC report said: “People’s care and welfare could be compromised because there were not adequate numbers of senior doctors. All medical staff we spoke with, including two senior consultants, said that they did not think there were enough emergency care consultants.”

A four-week nursing rota in A&E was also looked at by inspectors, which showed shortfalls every day.

The report added: “All of the nursing and medical staff we spoke with said that they did not think there were enough nursing staff to adequately care for people in the department.”

The Trust has been given until March 7 to improve staffing and now Monitor is investigating the organisation, which is also responsible for St Luke’s Hospital in Little Horton Lane.

Monitor, which is the watchdog for foundation health trusts, will look into whether the problems raised by the CQC regarding staffing levels at BRI’s A&E department are symptomatic of wider issues with how the Trust is run.

Robert Davidson, Monitor’s regional director for the north, said: “We have decided to open an investigation at the Trust to find out whether it is operating in breach of its licence.

“We will take a very close look at the issues highlighted by the CQC as well as the Trust’s performance and how it is being run. We will take regulatory action if required.”

It is understood such an investigation is common, but not always guaranteed, when a Trust fails to meet national standards of care.

Monitor can require foundation trusts to take action if a breach is found, accept binding undertakings from trusts that certain actions will be completed for a suspected breach and impose extra licence conditions for an actual or potential breach.

CQC inspectors found the Trust did not meet national standards in staffing, respecting and involving people who use services, care and welfare of service users and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision.

The Trust’s chief nurse Juliette Greenwood said: “We are working closely with our regulators and commissioners to make the necessary quality improvements that will deliver compliance as soon as possible.”