Dene Barton Hospital beds to stay closed

Somerset Partnership’s Trust Board in its review of community hospital staffing in today’s Board meeting, has agreed it is not in a position yet to re-open the inpatient wards at Chard, Dene Barton and Shepton Mallet Community Hospitals.

The Board discussed the staffing shortages in the Trust’s community hospitals, the consolidation of the 222 inpatient hospital beds into 10 community hospitals and temporary closure of three of our inpatient wards.

The Board re-iterated its commitment to re-open the community hospital inpatient wards as soon as possible, but it had not expected to be able to do this before the end of March 2018. The Board will keep the position under monthly review and will discuss at its next meeting in March.

The Board considered the responses to the public consultation, the assessed impact  on groups under the Equality Act and a range of options including re-opening the wards at Chard, Dene Barton and Shepton Mallet Community Hospitals and closing other wards or beds in hospitals most affected by staffing shortages.

The Board also discussed the staffing levels required to re-open inpatient wards and noted the current vacancy level which stands at more than 38 full time nurses – almost 53 nurses once maternity leave and sickness is factored in. Board members also received reports on staff sickness levels and extra winter demand which have increased the pressure on staffing levels.

Taking these issues into account, the Board agreed that, although the recruitment position had improved slightly, the staffing situation has not improved sufficiently at this point.

As a consequence, the Board agreed to support the continued temporary closure of the inpatient wards at Chard, Dene Barton and Shepton Mallet Community Hospitals and noted that, while the decision was difficult it was the right one to make, in the interests of protecting patient safety and supporting the current staff given the challenging staffing levels.

The Board thanked the 350 members of the public who contributed their views and time in responding to the public consultation; the recommendations of the consultation report will be taken forward and reported on at the next Board review in March 2018.

The Board concluded by paying tribute to all staff – those affected by the temporary closures and continued to give excellent patient care, and all staff across the Trust who have worked hard with increased patient demand over winter.

The Trust will continue to support any patients or families affected by the temporary closures, and that support can be accessed by contacting the Trust’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 01278 432022 or emailing PALS@sompar.nhs.uk. Any patients already in hospital can approach the ward sister for information about support for their carers and families.

Image courtesy of friends of Dene Barton

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