'No clear plans' to reopen Bishop's Castle Community Hospital

Councillors have raised concerns that they have heard "no clear plans" to reopen Bishop's Castle Community Hospital since a temporary closure was announced last month.

Bishop's Castle Community Hospital. Photo: Google
Bishop's Castle Community Hospital. Photo: Google

Last month Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (Shropcom) announced that it would be "temporarily closed on safety grounds", saying staffing issues over the last six months had left it "extremely difficult" to run the hospital.

Three south Shropshire councillors penned an open letter to health chiefs to challenge the decision and raise a number of questions, but say they have been given no firm answers.

The matter was also raised during the county's joint health overview and scrutiny committee on Monday.

Councillor Ruth Houghton, who represents Bishop’s Castle and was one of the councillors who wrote to Shropcom's chief executive Patricia Davies, said: "Unfortunately we didn't hear anything new although it was stated that in hindsight the hospital should perhaps have closed earlier due to the significant staff shortages.

"As a community, we could have shared job adverts and worked with the trust to address the issue before the decision to close, albeit on a temporary basis, was made.

"It is apparent that the dedicated staff team went above and beyond what is required of them to keep the beds open for as long as they did.

"What is needed now is clarity on the feasibility options, timescales for the completion of these and a clear timetable with measurable milestones for the recruitment of staff to enable the hospital to reopen as soon as possible."

Councillor Ruth Houghton

Councillor Heather Kidd, for Chirbury and Worthen, also put her name on the letter and is a member of the health overview and scrutiny committee.

She said: "We were informed that an additional 17 beds have been commissioned – 10 in Telford and Wrekin, five in designated settings and two at Lady Forester Care Home.

"We also heard at a later meeting about 17 beds being commissioned for winter pressures.

"What we don't know is if these are the same 17 beds and what the net impact is of additional beds in the system following the closure of the community hospital beds. Will these 17 beds make a difference?"

Last month, Shropcom announced patients at Bishop's Castle would be assessed and discharged to "the appropriate place of care" by Sunday, October 31.

It was also confirmed that physiotherapy clinics would be moved to Ludlow following the temporary closure of Bishop's Castle Community Hospital.

Councillor Heather Kidd

The trust, which manages the 16-bed hospital, said it was relocating the community physiotherapy clinic from Bishop's Castle to Ludlow Community Hospital so that "this vital service is not disrupted" and no other clinics are affected.

But health campaigners from Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Defend Our NHS, who have also hit out at the temporary closure, say patients who need to use the physiotherapy clinic and who don't drive now face long journeys on public transport.

The trust says some of the staff from Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital were working alongside local GPs to put in place a new model of care that will allow more people to be cared for in their own homes.

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