An acute trust has brought forward the closure of 71 inpatient beds across four community hospitals due to pressures on safe staffing.

Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust will close beds at facilities in Exeter, Seaton, Honiton, and Okehampton – with the first closures coming into effect on Monday.

The trust had originally set “indicative” closing dates between 4 September and 16 October but this has been brought forward due to the difficulty of safely staffing the wards.

The beds at Okehampton and Seaton community hospitals will close next week, and beds at Honiton and Exeter will be closed during the weeks beginning 28 August and 4 September respectively.

The trust aims to enhance its community services to support more home based care by reinvesting resources saved from closing the beds.

Em Wilkinson-Bryce, the trust’s deputy chief executive and chief nurse, told HSJ there were vacancy rates of 20-30 per cent at one of the hospitals, with staff choosing to leave or taking up other roles. 

“We reached a tipping point at one of our hospitals last weekend when we had no patients and no patients waiting from the acute hospital, and staffing was becoming a real challenge,” she said.

“Since we developed our out of hospital service, we have seen less need for community hospital inpatient beds.”

The four hospitals will remain open as other outpatient services are offered there.

A statement from the trust said: “Now that the workforce HR consultation has been completed, 170 staff can be redeployed into the enhanced community teams and our hospitals to provide extra capacity and resilience to meet the demand for care for the people of eastern Devon.”

Under the plans, which were subject to a 13 week public consultation, the trust will retain 72 beds at community hospitals in Tiverton (32), Sidmouth (24), and Exmouth (16).