Severe nurse shortages force community hospital closure

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is closing its 12-bed City Community Hospital at the Fulbrook Centre at the end of this month.

“Agency cover relieves some of this but does not provide consistency of care”

Oxford Health 

In a statement, the trust said: “This closure is for patient safety reasons, as there are insufficient registered nursing staff to ensure safe staffing of the unit across all shifts.”

The hospital cannot currently meet national recommendations of two registered nurses on shift, according to the trust.

Oxford Health said around half of the registered nurse posts had been empty on the unit since 2016.

However, the planned departure of further staff at the end of May would leave the hospital with two-thirds of its nursing positions vacant.

The unit was losing staff to the acute and nursing home sector, the trust said, noting how shortages had placed nurses under “additional pressure”.

It said it had made “strenuous efforts” to plug staffing gaps including through fairs, open days and online campaigns.

But it highlighted that previous job adverts had attracted more than 700 views but not a single application.

“The reasons for this are thought to include the unit’s relatively isolated location on the site of an attractive alternative employment environment and the high cost of living in Oxford,” said the trust statement.

“For existing staff, shortages have created additional pressure while caring for patients who have more acute needs than in the past,” said the trust.

“Agency cover relieves some of this but does not provide the consistency of care that these patients need from permanent staff with local expertise and experience,” it noted.

“While staff have worked extra hours and managed agency cover, that is not sustainable and employment opportunities in the acute and nursing home sector have made it difficult to retain staff indefinitely,” it added.

City Community Hospital provides rehabilitation and palliative care for people who no longer need acute hospital treatment. 

Its remaining 30 staff will be redeployed following the closure. Patients will be assessed and either sent home or moved to other community hospitals.

There would be a “full review” of the hospital’s bed provision and staffing in September, said the trust.