INPATIENT services at Moretonhampstead Community Hospital are to be temporarily suspended for an indefinite period, with effect from Friday 27 September.
All other clinics and outpatient sessions will continue as normal.
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has been forced to temporarily close the six inpatient beds due to staff shortages, including unfilled vacancies and staff departures.
Dr John Coop, associate medical director, said: “Despite our best efforts to put in place a resilient staffing model for the inpatient beds, the challenge of providing a safe and sustainable clinical service in such a rurally isolated unit has proved too great.”
Over the last six months, the Trust has made considerable progress in addressing the significant quality and patient safety concerns that led to the unit’s closure in January 2013.
- All clinical staff at Moretonhampstead and Okehampton hospitals work in shifts which rotate between both hospitals, giving them greater exposure of working with a larger number of patients.
- The Trust launched a development programme with staff to assess and support training and skills.
Dr Coop continued: “On reopening the beds in August, we urged caution that the unit was still vulnerable to short-term staffing changes. The issues around the staffing and sustainability of small community hospitals has long been recognised by the NHS.
“The community will be aware that we have tried our level best to get this unit back open and staffed sustainably.”
The Trust’s Director of Nursing has sent a letter to the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group outlining the reasons for the closure.
Dr Alex Degan of the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We acknowledge the effort the trust has put in to keep the unit open safely with the right ratio of staff – but a mix of geography and operational difficulties have meant this has been a difficult task.
“The recent instability of the service is a concern to all – and despite the Trust’s efforts, it is clear there are continuing factors affecting the delivery of service.
“Our duty is to commission services which adequately meet the healthcare needs of the local community and this will form the backbone of how we commission services for this community in future.”
Given the small number of patients able to be accommodated in the Community Hospital, this temporary closure will impact very few patients.
Kate Lyons, Director of Operations said, “We are working with our commissioners to agree the resources that we will be putting in place in Moretonhampstead to meet the local health care needs of the community. These services are likely to include community nursing, community therapy and rapid response. The aim of these services will be to provide healthcare services in the patient’s own home.”
During the closure, the intention is for people who may ordinarily have been an inpatient at Moretonhampstead to be treated in their own homes by the Trust’s community nursing and rehabilitation teams.
Anybody who cannot be treated at home and requires an inpatient admission will go to Okehampton Community Hospital.