The inpatient beds at Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital have been closed since October 2021 due to safety concerns around staffing levels.
Whitchurch currently has the highest amount of vacancies for registered nurses in the remaining community hospitals with inpatient beds.
“In Ludlow and Whitchurch increased levels of health care assistants were used during June when there were no registered nurses available,” said Claire Hobbs, director of nursing for the NHS Shropshire Community Health Trust (Shropcom).
“There were no particular incidents which have been highlighted as a result of that reduction in registered nursing. However, it’s not something that we’d want to maintain on a regular basis.”
A report submitted to the August meeting of Shropcom said that the introduction of international nurses would ‘vastly improve the picture’ for the registered nurses vacancies.
Currently the trust has 13 international nurses, a number expected to increase to 30 by October this year.
Mrs Hobbs added that they were also using nursing associates, with ‘bigger numbers than ever’ coming through, and an increased number of trainees due to the ‘huge national gap’ in registered nurses.
This comes as the occupancy rates reported for community hospitals in January were 94 per cent.
The dependency of patients has also increased the pressure on staffing levels at the inpatient beds of community hospitals.
“From a registered nursing perspective that’s where our shortfall has been and that’s the reason why Bishop’s Castle had to close (inpatient beds),” added Mrs Hobbs.
“It was specifically around registered nursing rather than anything else. You can see the challenges that we’ve got particularly in Ludlow, but also developing in Whitchurch as well.
“Although Whitchurch is closely linked with sickness as well as vacancy. There is increased rates of health care assistants which is partly because of the dependency, trying to keep patients safe.
“Also trying to fill the gap of the registered nurses that we can’t get hold of. It tells a story of 43,500 national vacancies for registered nurses.
“Where there is increased levels of dependency you need more one-to-one care, this is right across the board at the minute.
“The dependency of patients has absolutely shifted phenomenally since Covid. That is as a result of people not getting the correct levels of care during Covid and now coming out of Covid not being able to get hold of primary care appointments like they used to be able to.
“It all builds, we’ve got patients that perhaps have waited longer than they would have done previously to receive care or have assessments and that’s having a knock-on effect now in the type of dependent patients that we’re seeing.
“I think this is the future of how patient care will look.”
Patricia Davies, chief executive, highlighted that Telford and Wrekin was a ‘hot spot’ of having growth in the over-64 and over-75 age brackets.
“It’s an eye-watering figure,” said Mrs Davies. She added that there were talks about how resources are being deployed at a local level to meet the need and nationally around local authority funding.