HEALTH chiefs have agreed to continue their recruitment drive at a Shropshire 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 struggles 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.

Mrs Hobbs said the recruitment campaign would continue in January and February.”

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.

“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 said 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 and that those appointed may withdraw due to not having an indicative start date.

ShropCom chief executive Patricia Davies said many of those recruited are former staff who have worked in Bishop's Castle, retired, and returned, so the long-term sustainability of the service has to be thought about.

“We’ve all be 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," she said.