NURSES are being offered a 'golden handshake' to take up posts at a short-staffed Shropshire hospital.

Bishop's Castle's community hospital has been hit by staff shortages, with locals fearing that 16 inpatient beds, which have been closed since 2021, could be permanently lost. 

Clair Hobbs, director of nursing and workforce at ShropCom, said at a meeting earlier this year that the struggle to recruit registered nurses is being felt across the trust, which currently has over 100 nursing vacancies.

Speaking in June, she said 60 per cent of nursing posts were vacant at Bishop’s Castle, leaving no option but to close due to safety concerns.

But now there is hope on the horizon, with a day held on November 25 offering nurses the chance to drop in to the hospital and see what is on offer. 

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Chris Naylor said he was delighted that Shropshire Community Health Trust, which runs the community hospital, is offering a £3,000 "golden handshake" to attract new nurses. 

The candidate, who will be running to replace MP Phillip Dunne when he stands down at the next general election, was at the hospital to meet potential new recruits needed to reopen the "much-needed" 16-bed ward.

"It’s crucial we save this ward for this special town and surrounding communities," he said, praising the "lovely" town and "beautiful unspoilt countryside" surrounding it. 

Mr Naylor said south Shropshire's community hospitals offer vital services and that, having two medics in his family, he is very aware of how important they are, especially for rural locations. 

Alice Hegarty, of Staff Our Beds to Save Our Beds said the efforts are paying off, with a ward manager and senior staff already appointed.

"We just need a few more band 5 registered nurses to give us back a fully functioning ward," she said.

"Our community hospital is already running four clinics a week with more in the pipeline once the hospital reopens fully. These beds are essential for post-op recovery, respite, and end-of-life care. They take pressure off our main hospitals by providing local beds at a much lower cost, vital for our rural communities."

The NHS vacancy reference number is 825-5647070-OPS-C, offering a salary up to £35,000, with a closing date of December 16, 2023.