Staff shortages at a health trust could put its plans to improve and maintain care standards at risk, councillors have warned.

Medical chiefs at the Central London Community Healthcare (CLCH) NHS Trust are aiming to boost its rating to ‘outstanding’ at its next inspection by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

Kate Wilkins, assistant lead for quality at the trust, told councillors at Barnet’s health overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday (May 15) that the trust – which is currently rated ‘good’ – was “aiming high”.

But councillors warned staff shortages at the trust – which provides nursing and other community-based care for more than two million people a year – could put its ambitious plans at risk.

The trust’s 2018-19 draft quality account reveals it missed its targets to cut vacancy rates and reduce staff turnover.

Cllr Alison Moore, Labour member for East Finchley, said the trust had “ambitious development plans” and there was “a lot of good work going on”.

But she added: “There are a set of issues around pressure on staffing that are of concern in terms of your sustainability and capacity to maintain those standards you have and talk about elsewhere.”

Ms Wilkins said the trust had a strategy in place to deal with all the issues around staff retention based on research into employees’ reasons for leaving, which included the need for a “better work-life balance”.

She said she did not know whether private medical providers were poaching staff, but “anecdotally” she had heard that employees were tending to move to other parts of the NHS.

Ms Wilkins said recruitment was a “huge issue for the NHS, particularly in central London”, adding, “I think the issue is bigger than just us”.

Cllr Paul Edwards, Labour member for Underhill, asked if housing costs and the high cost of living were having an impact on staffing levels.

Ms Wilkins said: “Almost certainly. We are in central London. We do work with housing associations and also have got nursing accommodation.

“We house them in student-type accommodation. But of course, when you get older you don’t want to live in that – so longer term, it is not the solution.”

CLCH provides community health services across eleven London boroughs and Hertfordshire.

Services include health visiting for new-born babies, community nursing, stroke rehabilitation and palliative care for people towards the end of their lives.