A GROUP of patients at a medical practice are fighting to keep Wellington Community Hospital amid fears it could close for good.

The hospital is currently out of service to inpatients as it is been deemed unsafe to re-open it following its closure for "urgent repairs" last August.

Bosses at Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have now postponed plans to open its doors again this month, citing a shortage of nurses.

The Wellington Medical Centre Patient Participation Group - a team of volunteers from the centre's registered patient list - has expressed its "extreme disappointment" at the setback reported on in last week's County Gazette.

A PPG spokesman said: "Although the Somerset Partnership is trying to recruit more staff, the PPG feel that this very unfortunate situation is partly due to the desire to close community hospitals in favour of more centralised operations.

"Wellington needs the community hospital. We have an increasing population due to housing expansion and therefore local inpatient facilities are much more desirable as it keeps the pressure off the main hospitals.

"The PPG will actively be supporting the Wellington Hospital League of Friends in their mission to ensure our local community hospital remains open to provide a comprehensive service that we all deserve."

The trust announced last week that the hospital would remain mothballed following a review of nursing staffing levels across all community hospitals.

A trust 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."