WORKFORCE: A community hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation beds have been temporarily closed because of staffing problems, which has prompted fears about its future.

Sussex Community Foundation Trust closed the 17 beds at Midhurst Community Hospital last month citing safety concerns because it could not staff all shifts. The beds are used as a step-down facility, primarily for people who no longer need care at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, but require further rehabilitation until they are able to go home or to residential care.

Patients were either discharged or moved to other community hospitals, and some staff were also moved temporarily to other roles.

The closure has caused concern, with a local doctor telling a public meeting last week that the poor availability of social care services meant even people willing to pay could sometimes be unable to get support at home. A nurse said to potential recruits the north and south Downs were “like the Himalayas. You have to recruit locally in the Midhurst area.”

The trust has had significant challenges staffing the inpatient units for some time despite extensive advertising campaigns, and it has continued to try to recruit nurses with some success. It is also looking at creating more attractive posts – including sharing staff with other NHS organisations – and is examining how it could subsidise accommodation for nurses. One possibility is refurbishing a disused mews building on the hospital site, with financial support from the League of Friends.

A trust spokesman confirmed it wanted to reopen the beds but was unable to say when or whether this would happen.