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Bishop's Castle Hospital - Open letter to Mrs Patricia Davies, Chief Executive, Shropshire Community NHS Trust

October 30, 2021 9:05 AM

Dear Mrs Davies

As the three Shropshire Councillors representing the South West of the County in Bishop's Castle, Clun and Chirbury divisions we are writing to express our dismay and shock at the sudden temporary closure of the Community Hospital in Bishop's Castle.

As you set out in the online briefing on the 15th October organised by the Director of People at Shropshire Councillor and attended by Councillor Ruth Houghton and the Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care we fully understand the importance of delivering a safe service for patients and a safe working environment for staff. However, what we don't understand is why the decision to close the hospital on a temporary basis was made when it was.

The local communities that we represent are also very concerned and in order to understand the position better and so that we may answer questions raised with us we are seeking answers to the following questions:

- why was the decision suddenly made on 14/15 October, when in your press briefing you cite difficulties in recruitment for the past 6 months and that it has been difficult for a number of years?

- Why have you not shared these concerns with us as local Councillors or with the Council through the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC)?

- Why wasn't HOSC informed at their recent meeting of 14 October?

- How many vacancies do you have and at what grade? How long have you had these vacancies and which are currently out to advert now?

- You refer to this closure as a temporary closure yet in your press release issued 15th October '21 you refer to consultation with the local community on a new model of care with a focus on prevention and promoting good health and well being. Does this mean that it has already been decided that the new model of care will not include beds?

- Have all outpatient services offered at the community hospital also closed - audiology, physiotherapy?

-Is this actually a finance-driven decision? If so on what grounds? Can you share with us the cost of providing running the hospital including premises, medical and staff costs? c.

- What plans and timescales do you have for re-opening?

- Who owns the hospital site? is it earmarked for disposal as Ludlow is? Or is there a lease and if so how long does it have left to run? Or is the site jointly owned with Shropshire Council and if so what consultation have you undertaken with the Council on the future of the site?

- How will this closure impact on winter pressures? As we know from previous years, bed occupancy during the winter has been dangerously high across the acute hospitals including in 2019 when statistics showed that Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (Sath) exceeded its target for safe levels of bed occupancy in 26 out of 28 days in December. The loss of the Bishop's Castle beds, as the pandemic continues, will exacerbate this.

We are all extremely concerned about his temporary closure. Other temporary closures of services in Shropshire such as the temporary closure of 2 wards at Ludlow Community hospital in 2015 are still in place 6 years later and Stroke care at the RSH in 2013 was also a temporary closure but again remains in place. These temporary closures have, through default, become permanent as they have not reopened. What reassurances can you provide that this will not be the case for Bishop's Castle Community Hospital?

This hospital is a community asset, highly valued by local citizens across SW Shropshire and the Powys border area for its excellent care, palliative care and skilled and dedicated staff. It is a major loss and one that we will not accept without a challenge.

Yours sincerely

Ruth Houghton, Shropshire Councillor for Bishop's Castle Division

Nigel Hartin, Shropshire Councillor for Clun Division

Heather Kidd, Shropshire Councillor for Chirbury and Worthen Division