Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has today announced that the inpatient beds at Shepton Mallet Community Hospital will reopen on Monday 9 July.
It is the first step towards reopening the community hospital inpatient units that were temporarily closed in autumn 2017 due to a shortage of staff.
The inpatient beds at Shepton Mallet, Chard and Dene Barton were temporarily relocated to other community hospitals, but now Somerset Partnership is in a position to open one of the inpatient units.
Andy Heron, chief operating officer at Somerset Partnership, said:
“We are pleased to have reached a position where we are now able to reopen the inpatient unit at Shepton Mallet Community Hospital.
“We have been able to successfully recruit a number of nurses and also safely transfer some staff back to Shepton without significantly affecting neighbouring community hospitals."
The inpatient unit at Chard Hospital will remain temporarily closed for the time being due to an ongoing shortage of staff, but Somerset Partnership will continue to regularly review this position.
Mr Heron explained: “While the overall staffing position has improved, it is not yet stable enough to safely re-open more than one inpatient ward.
“Our latest review of the situation shows it is currently safer, and more sustainable, to begin a phased re-opening of inpatient units, starting with the ward at Shepton Mallet and then working towards re-opening Chard as the staffing position improves.
“We are very grateful for the patience and efforts of local people and organisations in and around Shepton Mallet, Chard and Dene Barton who have shared their views and ideas on staffing at the hospitals.”
The staffing position at Dene Barton means it is not practical or safe to re-open this ward for the immediately foreseeable future.
Somerset Partnership is to work with the hospital staff and League of Friends at Dene Barton to consider options for better use of the hospital while the ward remains temporarily closed.
Staffing shortages meant Somerset Partnership had to make a difficult decision in October 2017 to consolidate beds onto fewer community hospital units to improve resilience over the winter months.
Mr Heron said: “It was the right decision to make in the interests of protecting patient safety and supporting our staff given the challenging vacancy levels.
“It also meant that not only were we able to keep all beds open during a very challenging winter, we were able to open even more at times of highest demand, helping Musgrove Park, Yeovil Hospital and the hospitals on our county borders deal with one of the busiest winters in modern times.”