• Two-thirds of nursing posts at City Community Hospital will be vacant at end of May 
  • Hospital will remain closed until at least September 
  • Oxford’s high cost of living blamed for recruitment challenges

A community hospital in Oxford will close temporarily at the end of May because of major nursing shortages.

By the end of May, two-thirds of nursing posts at City Community Hospital will be vacant. This has led Oxford Health Foundation Trust to decide to close the hospital on the grounds of patient safety.

The 12-bed unit within the Fulbrook Centre at the Churchill Hospital site in Oxford will remain closed until at least September, when staffing and bed provision will be reviewed.

The trust said patients being treated at the hospital would be individually assessed. However, it is predicted four will return home, while the remainder will transfer to community hospitals in Abington and Whitney, which will open additional beds to accommodate them.

Remaining members of staff – around 30 – will be offered redeployment to other parts of the trust, while “vigorous” recruitment efforts will continue in a bid to fill the community hospital vacancies.

A trust statement 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.

“Two-thirds of posts will fall vacant by the end of this month. Nationally-prescribed safer staffing guidelines require two RNs per shift to ensure safe patient care for people who are typically frail with complex physical needs.”

City Community Hospital has struggled with recruitment despite “strenuous” efforts to hire new staff. Half of its registered nursing posts have been vacant since 2016.

According to the trust, previous job adverts, which had more than 700 views, have not led to a single application.

It is believed Oxford’s high cost of living has contributed to the recruitment challenges. 

The statement continued: “For existing staff, shortages have created additional pressure while caring for patients who have more acute needs than in the past.

“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.

“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.”

Adult mental health services, also provided by the trust, will continue to operate from the Fulbrook Centre.