Axminster Hospital beds reopening shelved

Axminster Hospital

Axminster Hospital - Credit: Archant

Dismay after long-awaited restoration of inpatient services is postponed: key meeting on hospital’s long term future today

The long-awaited return of 16 inpatient beds at Axminster Hospital has been delayed.

In a major blow to campaigners, health chiefs confirmed this week that the planned reopening, on July 29, will not now go ahead.

The beds were transferred to Seaton Hospital in the winter because of staff shortages but, after a successful recruitment drive, officials announced that nurses would begin training on the wards on Monday, July 27, before the first patients were admitted two days later.

But this week the Northern Devon NHS Healthcare Trust (NDHT) issued a statement saying it has had to postpone the reopening at Axminster Hospital due to ‘significant emerging staffing shortages.’

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In June 2015, Axminster hospital had more than 80 per cent of the Band 5 registered nursing posts filled by permanent staff. The figure has since dropped to 57.5 per cent.

There are currently 4.27 full-time equivalent vacancies for registered nurses.

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Alison Diamond, chief executive, said: “We were extremely disappointed to have had to take this decision and know this feeling will be shared by the local community, particularly following the superb efforts by the local clinical team and the community to help us recruit more staff.

“We have all done our best but despite these efforts and the attractiveness of working in this part in Devon, rapidly changing circumstances in the last ten days have meant we no longer have sufficient registered nurses to allow us to reopen the beds at this time.

“This last-minute change in our staffing position demonstrates just how challenging it is to fill nursing vacancies in the midst of a national skills shortage. With the national nursing shortage placing real pressure on our other community services, we cannot open a service knowing it would be reliant on agency staff and/or have an adverse impact on other services in neighbouring towns.”

In a joint statement Dr James Vann and Steve Holt, of the Axminster Hospital Action Group, said: “We are very disappointed that the NDHT have had to delay the opening of the beds at Axminster at such short notice. To date, an enormous amount of work has been done by ourselves and NDHT to make the reopening possible.

“This work will continue and we plan to meet again with the NDHT team next week. I am sure both the public and staff will be very disappointed at this change in plan.

“As soon as we have a new date we will let you know.”

In the meantime, a key meeting today (Thursday July 16) is set to determine the long-term future of inpatient facilities at both Axminster and Seaton hospitals. At the meeting, the Clinical Commission Group will set out its blueprint for future healthcare provision across East Devon.

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