CAMPAIGNERS were out in force at the weekend to try and stop the permanent closure of 16 beds at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital. 

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust (ShropCom) has said there is no prospect of re-opening the 16 inpatient beds at the town’s hospital, which have been closed since November 2021.

However, that has not stopped people trying to get health bosses to reverse the decision. They petitioning and leafleting in Bishop’s Castle to try and save the beds and give their hospital a more secure future.

"A few of us came across from Ludlow to help out with this brilliant campaign," said Councillor Darren Childs.

"I’m so glad I did, because I came away inspired.

"People were practically grabbing the petitions out of our hands, they were that desperate to sign. There’s real anger. People have had enough.

"I don’t think health bosses understand the fight they’ve taken on here."

"Shockingly, seven community ambulance stations have gone since 2018.

"Ambulance response times are now appalling in rural Shropshire. The target for response times for Category 2 calls is 18 minutes (with a temporary variation to 30 minutes this year because the crisis in the NHS is so deep). Rural Shropshire? Not a hope.

"An example for SY8, the Ludlow area, for May 2023 – the most recent data we have. The average time for an ambulance to arrive for a Category 2 call was 56 minutes, just under an hour. For one in ten calls, the ambulance took longer than an hour and a half to arrive.

"In South Shropshire, 24 beds at Ludlow Hospital were closed in 2015 and 16 beds at Bishop’s Castle in 2021. The consequence? Patients are being discharged from Hereford Hospital, too frail and ill to go home – so they’re being sent to Ludlow Travelodge instead, because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

"Health bosses insist this isn’t happening. GPs and councillors in Ludlow and Bishop’s Castle insist it is. And, yes, the GPs and councillors are right on this one."

Gill George, Chair of Shropshire Defend Our NHS, said: "That dumping of patients in budget hotels is incredibly unsafe. It’s got to stop.

"The ambulance response times are costing lives – and it’s just being normalised now. It’s very, very frightening.

"But there’s something else as well. Health bosses think they can centralise all their services in Shrewsbury or Telford, and three-quarters of Shropshire’s population will travel to get there.

"It might be unaffordable, people might be too ill to travel, in areas with no public transport, it’s sometimes just not physically possible for people who don’t drive to get to appointments. We need rural health care that’s fit for purpose."

"Surely a life in Whitchurch or Bishops Castle or Cleobury has the exact same value as a life in Shrewsbury or Telford? Why don’t local NHS leaders understand this?

Cllr Childs added: "People in rural Shropshire are losing confidence in NHS leaders, particularly the bosses at the Community Trust.

"We want the attack on Bishop’s Castle Hospital stopped – and we want a guaranteed future for all our community hospitals."

Gemma Smith, Director of Strategic Commissioning for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: “Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils do not commission hotels for people leaving hospital.   

 “We can confirm that neither of the local authorities have ever been asked to fund any patients from Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin placed by an out of area provider into a hotel bed. 

 “Any out of area patients requiring a bed-based service are referred into the Integrated Discharge Team and both Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust and the local authorities are aware of these patients.

 “For patients leaving hospital who are identified as being homeless, the hospital refer within the Homeless protocol and Ludlow Travelodge can be used as temporary accommodation.”