• Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust forced to close ward at Amersham Hospital for foreseeable future 
  • Trust struggled to meet staffing level targets enforced by the CQC 
  • Services will be reviewed in the autumn 

A community ward at a Buckinghamshire hospital will close next month due to a shortage of nurses and therapists.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust has made the decision to close the 22-bed Chartridge Ward at Amersham Hospital from 1 July on the grounds of patient safety.

Existing patients will remain on the ward “until it is safe for them to be discharged” – with services set to be reviewed again in November.

Following the closure, those needing inpatient rehabilitation services will be sent to either Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckingham Hospital or the Waterside Ward at Amersham Hospital.

Trust bosses have insisted that patients will not be moved to hospitals outside Buckinghamshire because of the closure - “unless they have asked for this to happen”.

The decision was made following a recent Care Quality Commission inspection at BHT – which saw conditions imposed on the trust regarding staffing levels on its community inpatient wards.

Shortages of nurses and therapists meant the trust could not meet these conditions.

Staff working on the Chartridge Ward will move to the other two inpatient wards at Amersham Hospital. 

Chief executive of the Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Lou Patten, said high living costs in the county and lower salaries compared to London makes it difficult to attract nurses into the area.

She said: “The challenge of maintaining sustainable, safe levels of staffing for inpatient community services is currently proving very tough in Buckinghamshire.

“Our county has high living costs and yet misses London salary allowances - this makes nursing vacancies less attractive than in other surrounding areas.”

Chief executive of BHT, Neil Macdonald, said he is “disappointed” the ward needs to close, but added: “The ongoing safety of patients and staff” is the trust’s main priority.

He said: “By concentrating our staff across two wards instead of three, we will be able to ensure safe staffing at all times and provide a better experience for our patients.

“This will include additional therapy, helping people to recover faster and continue their rehabilitation in the comfort of their own homes.

“We are committed to Amersham as one of the trust’s main hospitals in the county.

“It provides a vital service to the local community and additional outpatient clinics are scheduled to begin welcoming new patients this summer.”

In Oxfordshire, City Community Hospital closed at the end of May due to major nursing shortages.

Health bosses in Oxford also blamed the recruitment challenges on the high cost of living in the county.