Minister pledges to help MP reopen Bishop's Castle hospital as staff shortages force closure

A Government minister says he will work with a south Shropshire MP to see what can be done about the temporary closure of a community hospital.

Philip Dunne speaking in Parliament. Pic: UK Parliament
Philip Dunne speaking in Parliament. Pic: UK Parliament

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne raised the issue of the temporary closure of Bishop's Castle Community Hospital in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

In a question to health minister Edward Argar MP, Mr Dunne asked: "Is the minister aware that on Friday, NHS Shropshire announced the imminent closure of Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital for patient safety reasons due to a lack of qualified nursing staff?

"Will he work with me to put pressure on the local NHS to develop a plan to recruit suitably qualified nurses and reopen the hospital as soon as possible?"

Shropshire Community Health Trust says it it has been unable to get the right level of substantive staff to deliver optimum care to patients. All patients are expected to be out by Sunday, October 31.

Mr Dunne raised the issue as the Commons was discussing the backlog in elective surgery that is facing the NHS, saying that community hospitals play a role in providing the appropriate capacity for recovery and rehabilitation.

Mr Argar agreed with the importance of community hospitals and added: "I am grateful to him for drawing that to my attention and I will look into the specific situation he raised. It is important that, alongside providing a service, it is a safe service.

"I am happy to work with him to see what can be done in that situation."

Mr Dunne later tweeted that it is important that Shropshire NHS immediately develops a solid plan to deliver sufficient qualified staff, and get our hospital reopened as soon as possible.

Shropshire councillor Nigel Hartin (Clun) has also had his say, claiming that a "health desert" is potentially being create in the south west of the county by the "hurried shutting of Bishop’s Castle Hospital."

Councillor Hartin said: “Bishop’s Castle Hospital plays a key role in health care across a huge part of rural southwest Shropshire including my division.

"If we take these hospital beds out of service during the winter months it will impact disproportionally on elderly patients and their families taking them to hospitals a long way from their communities. Also, the outpatients’ services in physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology at the hospital will be sorely missed."

Councillor Hartin is concerned that the closure could be made permanent.

He said: "Although we have had protestations that the closure of the hospital will only be temporary, I have now heard from two sources that staff are being transferred from Bishop’s Castle to Ludlow Hospital.

Bishop's Castle Community Hospital. Photo: Google

“We have also been told that this closure has come about because of staff shortages yet we have seen no evidence of any effort to recruit new staff. There have not been ads in local papers and no local organisation in our area has, to my knowledge, been asked to advertise vacancies

“We need a firm commitment from the Shropshire Community Health Trust that our highly valued hospital will be re-opened along with what steps they will be taking to address the shortfall in trained staff.

“On top of this, we have acknowledged poor ambulance response times across the southwest. So long waits for ambulances and reduced hospital beds – not great for our rural residents.”

Shropshire Community Health Trust has been invited to comment.

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