Angry councillors in Bishop’s Castle have accused a health trust of 'closing a hospital by stealth'.

Liberal Democrat councillors Heather Kidd and Ruth Houghton have criticised the decision by Shropshire Community Health Trust last week to close the Bishop's Castle Community Hospital due to staffing concerns.

In a statement on Thursday, October 14, the trust said the hospital would close 'temporarily' on safety grounds from the end of this week, with inpatients to be moved to other facilities by the end of the month.

Now, the two South Shropshire councillors have criticised what they say is the trust's poor communication with residents - and questioned the motived behind the move.

"The health situation in our County is bad enough as it is without health care bodies failing to communicate with each other or our residents," said Heather Kidd, Shropshire councillor for Chirbury and Worthen.

"The 10 beds at Bishop’s Castle are usually full during the winter months and the hospital plays a key role for health care in a whole swathe of the South West of the County. Without these local beds people from south West Shropshire will be faced with long visitor journeys and poor public transport..

"Staffing has been quoted as the main reason for the closure, but not once have they raised this as an issue with Scrutiny. Rumour has it that there are extra beds opening in Ludlow, another SCHT run hospital, if so it will be interesting to see where the additional staff will come from."

Ruth Houghton, Shropshire Councillor for Bishops Castle Division added that she had sought assurances that there were no redundancies, and has called for clarification on how long the hospital is set to remain closed.

"I have expressed my concern that there may not be sufficient capacity in the local area, BC, Clun, Chirbury to accommodate people who are in a bed currently or to facilitate hospital discharges from Shrewsbury Hospital especially on brink of winter pressures," she said.

"I have also asked for more information on the length of time the hospital will be closed for, no plan or timescales have been provided.

"The Community hospital in Bishop’s Castle has a committed staff team who provide excellent care. It is a resource that is highly valued by the local community and this temporary closure has come has a shock to local people.

"It is vital that a plan is developed that will address the recruitment issues so that the hospital can reopen quickly and provide safe care for patients and a safe working environment for staff both of which is essential."

A statement issued by SCHT last week said staffing levels had been insufficient to provide "optimum" levels of care to patients.

"SCHT is committed to providing high quality care, and this has proved to be extremely challenging at Bishop’s Castle due to long-standing staffing issues," said a spokesperson.

"Recruitment has been a problem for several years. For the last six months it has become extremely difficult to maintain the qualified staffing levels required to run the hospital.

"This has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has and continues to impact us severely."