Health service bosses are to keep Wellington Hospital’s inpatient facility closed indefinitely. When the closure for maintenance purposes was announced last month there were fears expressed that its future was uncertain.
Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has now announced its intention to ‘pause’ the reopening of the ward as it plans to make other beds available elsewhere in Somerset.
Five additional stroke beds will be located on the specialist stroke units at Williton Community Hospital and South Petherton Community Hospital.
Andy Heron, chief operating officer for community services, mental health and learning disabilities at Somerset Partnership, said: “Over the past few months it has become clear that there is a real and pressing clinical need for more stroke beds in the community to help support our acute hospitals and patients.
“Being able to provide specialist rehabilitation quickly to anyone who has suffered a stroke in Somerset is incredibly important and that is why we have decided to open five more community beds.”
Wellington’s inpatientward was closed in August while repair works took place but the outpatient clinic is open as normal. Mr Heron added: “In order for us to safely staff the additional beds, we have decided we need to temporarily keep Wellington Community Hospital closed and use our existing nursing staff across our specialist stroke sites.
“We will be carrying out a review over the next few weeks to assess the staffing situation and to consider any further action that may be needed.”
Town councillors reacted with dismay to the extended closure. “Although I appreciate that the NHS locally needs to staff more stroke beds, this extended closure of the Wellington Community Hospital is a great concern to Wellington residents and the council,” said Cllr Janet Lloyd.
“We were told by Lucy Nicholls (NHS spokesperson) that there are 30 community beds available in Somerset. This may be correct but to have this facility in Wellington, on our doorstep is so valuable. We need to have our community hospital opened again as soon as possible.”
Cllr Mark Lithgow linked the staffing problems to government policies. “I believe that this situation has been brought about by the current government decision years ago to remove the bursary to support the education and training of nurses. This basically removes the only policy the UK had to incentivise recruitment, leaving students to pay fee and build up debts. This has led to a 23% drop in nursing degree applicants,” he said.
“I fear that Wellington will see the demise of its hospital unless there is a major focus by the government to reverse the current trend.”