The closure of a community hospital risks creating a "health desert" in its surrounding area, a councillor has warned.

Last week Shropshire Community Health Trust announced the "temporary" closure of Bishop's Castle hospital, with remaining patients to be moved elsewhere by the end of the month.

It comes as the trust bemoans worsening staffing problems, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Clun councillor Nigel Hartin said the move could create a ‘health desert’ in south west Shropshire.

“Bishop’s Castle Hospital plays a key role in health care across a huge part of rural southwest Shropshire including my division," he said.

"If we take these hospital beds out of service during the winter months it will impact disproportionally on elderly patients and their families taking them to hospitals a long way from their communities. Also, the outpatients’ services in physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology at the hospital will be sorely missed.

“What is really disturbing though is the increasing signs that the trust is preparing to make this closure permanent.

“We have also been told that this closure has come about because of staff shortages yet we have seen no evidence of any effort to recruit new staff. There have not been ads in local papers and no local organisation in our area has, to my knowledge, been asked to advertise vacancies.

“We need a firm commitment from the Shropshire Community Health Trust that our highly valued hospital will be re-opened along with what steps they will be taking to address the shortfall in trained staff.

“On top of this, we have acknowledged poor ambulance response times across the southwest. So long waits for ambulances and reduced hospital beds – not great for our rural residents.”