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Legal challenge sees decision to close hospital over staffing issues quashed

An NHS Trust has conceded, following a judicial review challenge, that its decision to close a hospital over staffing issues partly attributed to pandemic pressures was unlawful.

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust decided to temporarily close its 16-bed inpatient unit at Bishop's Castle Community Hospital in October 2021 as providing high-quality care became "extremely challenging" due to long-standing staffing issues.

Last week it emerged that a local resident's judicial review challenge led to the decision to close the hospital being quashed.

According to a press release issued by the set representing the claimant, Doughty Street Chambers, it was claimed that the Trust failed, contrary to its obligations under s.242 National Health Service Act 2006, to make arrangements to secure the involvement of the users of the hospital prior to the closure decision. 

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Whilst the Trust had originally sought to place reliance upon the steps taken to involve users following the October 2021 decision, it subsequently accepted that such actions were insufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements and conceded the judicial review challenge, the barristers' chambers reported.

In a statement made in October of last year announcing the decision to close the hospital, the Trust said recruitment had been a problem for several years.

It added: "For the last six months it has become extremely difficult to maintain the qualified staffing levels required to run the hospital. This has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has and continues to impact us severely."

The hospital stopped taking new admissions a week after the announcement, and inpatients were assessed and discharged to other facilities.

Earlier this month (7 April 2022), a one-day recruitment event was held in which attendees could learn about jobs on offer at the hospital, interview for a role and leave with a conditional offer on the same day.

The Trust later reported that it had a high turnout for the event.

David Lemer of Doughty Street Chambers acted for the claimant, instructed by Michael Imperato of Watkins Gunn Solicitors.

Adam Carey

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