Shropshire Star

'Cautious optimism' as ShropCom vows to 'try again' with recruitment to reopen Bishop's Castle hospital beds

Campaigners are feeling positive after Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust vowed on Thursday to try again with staff recruitment to reopen inpatient beds at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital.

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Campaigners from 'Save Our Beds' gather outside the SpARC Theatre, Bishop's Castle to hear the decision on inpatient beds

The board members at ShropCom decided to renew the staff recruitment campaign in order to reopen its 16 beds.

However, if the recruitment campaign is unsuccessful the trust will give notice to local NHS that it can no longer offer the service.

The meeting, which began at 3pm on Thursday was full to capacity, with members of the local community and people from across the border into Powys coming to show their support.

Ruth Houghton, Shropshire councillor for Bishop's Castle said: "The decision has been made to try again with recruitment and that's absolutely the right decision.

Heather Ashton and Adam Batha

"I think the board has considered the papers carefully and that is the right decision and the recruitment process needs to be creative and fresh to try and attract staff to this area of Shropshire.

"So we are satisfied with the decision and I think the proof of the pudding will be how it delivers and how that plan looks and I look forward to following the process."

Admissions to the 16 beds at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital were 'temporarily' closed in October 2021 due to issues with staffing levels – and have yet to reopen some 23 months on.

Chris Carter makes her feelings known

Board members chose Option 2a, which, according to the board papers is to: "Formulate a Workforce and Recruitment Plan (as suggested by the HR Consultant in feedback) with clear targets as to the numbers and type of staff to be recruited, the activity to be undertaken and the timeline for completion.

"On completion of the recruitment plan if the recruitment numbers have been achieved the beds would be re-opened, if they have not been achieved, notice would be provided to withdraw from the inpatient service and to provide the commissioned activity over the remaining three community hospital sites."

Nic Watson, of the Save Our Beds campaign, said there was still a long way to go, but this was a positive step in the right direction.

Alicia Hegarty and Caroline Kerswell with fellow campaigners

Alicia Heggarty said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the future.

She added: "With the options on the table, it was the best one I'd hoped for. I was happy they admitted that there were gaps in the original recruitment process.

"However, there's no time frame and they haven't guaranteed that they will work with the local community; and we have all the connections, the town council, GP practices and we are a wonderful resource but I don't know if they will use us.

Campaigners gather outside the SpARC Theatre to hear the decision on inpatient beds

"They said that the staffing had gone up at the other three hospitals, so that would beg the question; why can't that happen at Bishop's Castle? What's stopping them recruiting to Bishop's Castle?"