Wellington’s Community Hospital is one of 13 small Somerset hospitals at risk of closure as health officials look to rationalise smaller-site care across the county. Wellington has had problems this summer in terms of meeting minimum staff cover.
Staffing at the Community Hospital fell to critical levels recently, according to figures available for June and July this year. Red Flags, signifying that only one registered nurse was on duty per shift when requirements say there should be at least two, were issued on 63 occasions over the two months. Over the same period this is the highest total of Red Flags in the 13 Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s community hospitals. The second highest number was 26 red flags issued at Minehead.
The figures were presented at the Somerset County Council Scrutiny for Policies, Adults and Health Committee meeting on Wednesday 11 October in a report providing an update on staffing and sustainability issues at community hospitals across the county.
The hospital at Bulford has 11 beds and is the third smallest hospital in the Trust. Figures show staff vacancies of 42.3% in September and 19.9% in October. 40% of the Registered Nurse workforce at Wellington Community Hospital are over 55 and, as the report states, are ‘highly likely to have special class status and are therefore eligible to retire now’.
A spokesperson for the Trust said, “In terms of staffing at Wellington, historically, due to the close proximity of Musgrove Park Hospital and the small inpatient numbers, Wellington Hospital has only had one registered nurse on duty overnight. This position is changing to ensure that all wards meet the requirement of two registered nurses on duty at all times.”
Red Flag guidelines were issued in The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s ‘Safer Staffing: A Guide to Care Contact Time’ in November 2014.
Addressing the increasing pressure of staffing and sustainability in the Trust hospitals, the report states, “The review of information confirms that it is not sustainable to continue to safely deliver inpatient care across 13 wards. Reconfiguration of the bed stock would allow care to be delivered in fewer sites – and significantly reduce the likelihood of an unplanned closure during the winter period which would have a significant impact on the wider care system.”