Twenty four community hospital beds, 10 in Shepton Mallet and 14 in Chard, will be moved to other local hospitals by the end of October 2017, to make sure enough staff are available for patients during winter.
Nursing staff will move with the hospital beds and then the two inpatient wards will be temporarily closed. All other services provided at each community hospital, including the minor injury units and outpatient clinics, will remain in place and operate as usual.
The moves have been made necessary given the shortage of registered nurses across Somerset, and difficulty in recruiting new staff.
Dr Nick Broughton, Chief Executive Officer, explained the decision and said:
“Somerset Partnership provides 222 community hospital beds spread out over 13 community hospitals. As we make our plans for an expected increase in patients over winter and review staffing levels, it has become clear that, with a quarter of our community hospital registered nursing posts vacant, our nursing workforce is spread far too thinly at the present time.
“Whilst we very much regret having to take this temporary action on the grounds of patient safety, we are anxious to avoid sudden closures. We will therefore be seeking to temporarily close our inpatient beds at Chard Community Hospital and Shepton Mallet Community Hospitals."
Dr Nick Broughton added:
“I know this decision will cause concern to residents of Chard and Shepton Mallet and surrounding villages. I want to meet with the local public to explain this is a decision made in the best interests of patient safety and sustainable levels of staffing and to listen to their views about what we are doing.”
Drop in sessions will be arranged in Chard and Shepton Mallet on Friday 20 October where we will have senior staff on hand to discuss these decisions.
By the end of October, the beds will move to other nearby community hospitals so that we can consolidate staff on fewer sites and ensure we can keep 222 beds open over the winter period.
Dr Nick Broughton explained the next steps and said:
“Over the days ahead our staff will be working closely with patients, patient families and carers to ensure that as many people as possible are able to complete their hospital stay prior to the beds moving.
“As always we are extremely proud of our dedicated workforce in community hospitals who continue to deliver high quality care against a backdrop of increasingly difficult nursing shortages.
“The decisions announced today will go some way to addressing these severe shortages of nurses by concentrating our staff onto fewer sites within larger teams. Whilst we will continue to do everything possible to recruit more nurses and monitor the situation closely, it is difficult to envisage re-opening these beds before March 2018.”
These measures are temporary and we will continue to work with Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, partner organisations and our staff to keep the position under review and work towards re-opening the beds when staffing levels are secure.