'Wards run down' ahead of Devon Hospital bed closures

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Campaigners against plans to close all the beds at a community hospital claim maintenance was neglected ahead of the decision to stop admitting inpatients.

A councillor says he was told nurses at Holsworthy Community Hospital in Devon had to check patients by torchlight because bedside lights were broken.

Philip Hackett also says staff had to buy doorbells to replace broken bedside call bells.

NHS bosses said the temporary bed closures are due to staff shortages.

Mr Hackett, who serves on Torridge District Council, said the future of the hospital was now under threat.

"Holsworthy and the surrounding area will need to fight to save their vital hospital. I do not believe anyone within the hospital believes that this is temporary", he said.

'Money is tight'

The hospital is operated by the North Devon Healthcare Trust.

Andy Ibbs, its director of operations, said: "We have been struggling over some time now to make sure there are sufficient staff at Holsworthy to look after patients properly".

He said he was not aware of concerns over the maintenance of the wards, but said he would look into the issue.

"We all know that money is tight in the NHS and in particular capital for doing building works or equipment replacement", he said.

But he was confident the building had been maintained to the necessary standards.

One resident whose family members work at the hospital said nurses were left in tears following the announcement that the beds would be temporarily closed.

Ben Longhurst-Prior said: "I believe the hospital is so needed in the Holsworthy area. There is nowhere else for palliative care within an hour's drive".

The union Unison's South West organiser Oli Foster-Burnell said: "This closure is a blow for the hardworking health staff who've kept Holsworthy going through some testing times.

"The hospital has long-running problems with recruitment and ‎finances, not helped by a heavy reliance on agencies to fill gaps.

"A fully funded, more joined-up health service could reduce these problems, but the government's plans to restructure the NHS yet again risk making things worse"

North Devon Healthcare Trust said the beds would remain closed until a solution to the staffing problem could be found.

It could not guarantee their future, it said.

Outpatients services will continue at the site.

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