Councillors set to pile the pressure on over 'temporary' south Shropshire hospital closure

A decision to 'temporarily' close a community hospital in south Shropshire is set to be discussed at a council meeting later this month.

Bishop's Castle Community Hospital
Bishop's Castle Community Hospital

Bishop's Castle Community Hospital was closed by Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust on safety grounds on November 1 because bosses say they are having trouble recruiting people to work there.

But councillors are determined not to let the issue lie and are now asking the public to lodge questions when they have their next opportunity to put health leaders in the spotlight.

"They still haven't answered our questions on what they mean by temporary," said Bishop's Castle Councillor Ruth Houghton. "But we are definitely not going to let up on this.

"There is due to be a meeting of the joint health overview and scrutiny meeting on November 22 where both myself and Heather Kidd will be asking questions.

"We would certainly welcome members of the public tabling their own questions."

There had been some confusion locally on the creation of a new community team, to support people in their own homes and reduce ambulance conveyances, prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and facilitating early discharge from hospital.

Councillors had understood that a team of nursing staff, health care assistants and admin support staff had formed but had been based in Craven Arms.

But a spokesperson for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust has confirmed that the team is based at Bishop's Castle.

A statement read: "Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital was temporarily closed on safety grounds on the November 1, 2021.

"From the November 2, 2021 a team have been based at the site providing an enhanced community offer to support local residents, working in partnership with both the local GP surgery and the Primary Care Network."

The trust was also asked whether there is an update on when Bishop's Castle Community Hospital will reopen. But that there was no reply to that question.

Councillors remain "extremely concerned" and point to other examples of when "temporary" closures" have become more permanent.

In a recent letter to ShropCom chief executive Patricia Davies, councillors Houghton, Kidd and Nigel Hartin (Clun) wrote: "Other temporary closures of services in Shropshire such as the temporary closure of two wards at Ludlow Community Hospital in 2015 are still in place six years later and stroke care at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in 2013 was also a temporary closure but again remains in place.

“These temporary closures have, through default, become permanent as they have not reopened.”

Councillor Kidd (Chirbury and Worthen) said: "It would be good to have members of the public also asking questions to help show the strength of feeling."

A spokesperson for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (Shropcom) had stated that the decision to temporarily close Bishop’s Castle Hospital on safety grounds was "not one we have taken lightly, but was one that was necessary."

Some of the staff from Bishop’s Castle have been relocated to nearby Ludlow Hospital, which provides 24 inpatient beds.

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