Shropshire Star

Health boss insists Bishop's Castle hospital will not close despite struggle to recruit staff

A health boss says Bishop's Castle's hospital will not close if a decision is made to no longer have in-patient beds there.

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Patricia Davies

Shropshire Community Health Trust (ShropCom) is looking at whether the temporary closure of the 16 beds at the town's community hospital should be made permanent after a failure to recruit staff.

But its chief executive, Patricia Davies, said there would continue to be important services provided from the hospital.

The in-patient beds were closed in October 2021.

"Having tried to recruit and attract staff to these jobs we have concluded there is no reasonable prospect, at present, of the trust being able to safely re-open the inpatient community hospital beds at Bishop’s Castle Hospital," Ms Davies said.

"Caring for patients without the right safe staffing levels is not right for the patients or for the staff expected to work in these circumstances. Recruitment has been a problem for several years, and despite considerable time and efforts, we have been unable to secure the right level of staff to deliver safe, high-quality care. This is a national, regional, and of course a local issue.

"Therefore, and with regret, we have notified NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, the organisation responsible for commissioning local health services, of the current position.

"We will commence a period of engagement with our staff and the public on the current position, and the decision we must take as to whether or not to relinquish the contract to provide the community hospital beds at Bishop’s Castle Hospital.

"It will then be for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, to decide what to do next."

The chief executive said that, importantly it was not about closing Bishop's Castle Community Hospital.

"Those who have suggested that are wrong. There are and will continue to be important services provided to the community by our staff and other NHS staff from the hospital. I do accept the important role these services play in providing good access locally."

She thanked the ShropCom staff for their ongoing dedication, and said she appreciated it was a difficult time for them.

"I wanted our staff to hear the news from us first as I believe that is the right and proper thing to do. Our staff want to work on the ward at Bishop's Castle Hospital and are rightly disappointed about the news. They have been a credit to the trust and we must do what we can to support them. We managed to brief them last week and so now we move into a period where we must explain our views and answer questions from patients and the public.

"This is not formal public consultation - nor is it about closing the hospital. It is a process of engagement about our conclusion as the people currently responsible for the community hospital beds, that we can see no realistic prospect of safely re-opening the beds."

Shropcom says that over the next week or so its will contain more information on the engagement process. It will also publish information on the work it has done to try and recruit and how the community hospital beds have been used in the past.

"Our website will include a link to a questionnaire that will be available online for people to respond. We will be helping people who don’t have internet access and holding some focus groups. This will be conducted by independent market researchers.

"In addition to the meeting local councillors have arranged at short notice we are organising two public meetings at the end of June. Dates and times will be published shortly.

"I realise that this is a difficult time for our staff and the community of Bishop's Castle and surrounding areas and ShropCom looks forward to hearing views and suggestions."