MINEHEAD and Williton Community Hospitals are both currently operating with less than two-thirds the number of nurses required as NHS bosses in Somerset continue to face a recruiting crisis.

On top of this, a number of the staff are already aged 55 or over and therefore eligible to retire immediately.
Andy Heron, chief operating officer for the Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said he did not think this would be an issue that would be going away any time soon.
“One of the major issues for us is recruiting registered nurses,” Mr Heron said. “It is incredibly difficult and the Somerset CCG are juggling where best to deploy resources.”

A new report written by the Somerset Partnership’s director of strategy and corporate affairs Phil Brice states that Minehead, Williton and Barton Dene Community Hospital at Cotford St Luke are operating with ‘vacancy rates all in excess of 40 per cent’.

The news comes as the partnership hard on the heels of positive news that six specialist stroke rehabilitation beds based in Williton which re-opened this week.

Mr Heron said that since the decision had been made to close the beds in November 2016, demand had gone up and Somerset CCG had deemed it a priority to re-open them.

The League of Friends of Williton Hospital had been campaigning tirelessly since the announcement was made last year and secretary

Barbara Heywood said she was delighted at the news, but said it was important the beds remained open long term.
“It is absolutely brilliant, it is what we have been fighting for since the announcement last November,” Mrs Heywood said.
“This change needs to be permanent. I do not believe this increase in demand is something temporary, we have an ageing population and sadly strokes are not an uncommon affliction among elderly people.”

The recruitment crisis the NHS is facing in Somerset has already seem Minehead Community Hospital temporarily close due to concerns over patients’ safety and re-open this year and Andy Heron said he feared there could still be problems further down the line.

“The government has promised extra training places but the effect of this will not come in for another few years," Mr Heron said.
“We have a generous relocation package to try and bring people into Somerset, which we advertise nationally.
 “We also do radio advertising and advertise through universities, we have recruited from Spain in the past but as it stands there are just simply not enough registered nurses available,” Mr Heron said.