WELLINGTON Community Hospital will be closed to inpatients for longer than planned as it cannot currently "safely re-open".

Inpatient beds were due to be occupied again later this month.

This week's decision by Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for the facility to remain mothballed follows a review of nursing staffing levels across all community hospitals.

A spokesman said: "Recent changes in staffing which mean that the inpatient ward at Wellington Community Hospital cannot safely reopen as planned."

Andy Heron, chief operating officer at Somerset Partnership, said: "This has been a difficult decision, but given that our staffing position remains challenged, one made in the best interests of patient safety.

"I realise this is disappointing news for the local community, but after recent staff changes, reopening the ward as we had planned would bring our overall nurse vacancies rate close to 20 per cent within our community hospitals.

"We cannot deliver care safely carrying this overall level of vacancies.

"We continue to advertise and interview new nurses and we monitor our recruitment progress on a weekly basis."