HEALTH chiefs have agreed to continue their recruitment drive at a community hospital into next year.

The 16-bed in-patient unit at Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital has been closed since October 2021 due to a struggle recruiting the amount of staff needed to safely run the service.

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (ShropCom) considered withdrawing from running the service in September, before agreeing to have one final recruitment drive.

At their December meeting a report by ShropCom showed that out of the 12.24 Whole Time Equivalents (WTE) staff required to run the in-patient unit 8.8 have so far been recruited.

That leaves 3.44 WTE vacancies left to fill before the in-patient service can re-open.

“We’ve been working very closely with the community of Bishop’s Castle hospital and the Save Our Beds campaign which has been very uplifting,” said Claire Hobbs, director of nursing and workforce at ShropCom.


“It’s been a different approach to how we’ve looked at recruitment and retention of staff. We’ve held a number of Open Days and events in the Bishop’s Castle area.

“We’re continuing with those very positive recruitment campaigns for Bishop’s Castle in January and February and then in the March time we will look at what that has yielded in terms of the recruitment efforts around the in-patient service.”

ShropCom has also been working with Southwest Primary Care Network and steering group looking at the wider model of care for Bishops Castle Community Hospital.

This has resulted in the expansion of outpatient facilities and the introduction of ambulatory and care coordination functions.

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“It has been a real positive few months and weeks,” added Mrs Hobbs. “We will need to consider what we do at the end of March. Whether we continue with recruitment or stop knowing that such a lot of work is going on within that space.”

Of the 8.8WTE equivalent recruited to Bishop’s Castle 3.47WTE are currently working at Ludlow Community Hospital.

ShropCom state that the number of suitable applicants for the advertised registered nurses roles ‘have slowed’ and there ‘remains a risk’ the total number of staff needed will not be achieved.

The Trust also says that there is ‘a risk’ that those appointed with jobs may withdraw due to not having an indicative start date.

“In terms of what it’s yielding I think it’s too early to say at the moment, I’ve been astounded by sone of the response,” added ShropCom chief executive Patricia Davies.

“We have made some recruitment for the ward and wider services. A lot of those people are returners who have worked in Bishop’s Castle, retired and returned so we’ve got to think about long-term sustainability of the service as well.

“We’ve all been encouraged by the interest about all of the campaigning that we’ve been doing. We’re going to continue and will be clearer about what that’s yielded in terms of the in-patient unit in February or March time.

“I’m of the view that beyond that we need to continue the work with the Save Our Beds campaigners because there are other posts within the community that we need to fill.

“We’ve not just been focusing on the in-patient unit and by filling those we’ve been able to have a wide consultation.

“I’m really minded to continue the recruitment as there is so much good stuff happening. It’s not just about the in-patient beds but the development of the model as well.”