THERE are fears over the future of Bridport Community Hospital with beds currently closed due to a staff shortage.

Dorset Healthcare, the trust that runs the hospital, has said that there is currently a shortage of nurses at the hospital which means only 24 of the 38 beds are currently open.

This has led to concerns over the long-term future at the hospital with a Clinical Services Review currently taking place.

Sally O'Donnell, locality director for Dorset Healthcare said: "Changes in the use of beds at Bridport hospital is a response to staffing difficulties and is not related to the Clinical Services Review being led by Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group.

“Unfortunately we have recently been having very real difficulties in ensuring the appropriate number of qualified nurses on the wards at Bridport hospital. In this situation our absolute priority is to ensure that patients receive high quality, safe care, so we temporarily admit fewer patients and reduce the number of beds in use until we have more nurses in place.

"At this point in time we have 24 of 38 beds open at the hospital. We have a similar issue at Swanage Hospital, which may affect the availability of beds there later in the summer."

Concerns have been raised that with the Clinical Services Review currently taking place, the reduction in beds has come at the worst possible time.

West Dorset District councillor for Bridport North, Ros Kayes, said: "If this is only due to staffing shortages and a strictly temporary measure then the crisis is not so big as we'd thought. However, it is often the case that health authorities use staffing shortages as a rationale for cutting services permanently. This is my concern and in rural areas that is simply not acceptable.

"People need provision and in this case beds locally. The CCG are undertaking a review which will involve beds at the community hospitals that survive being central to the step up and step down role of provision. Now is exactly the wrong time therefore to be cutting beds at Bridport."

The trust has said that it is working to recruit new nurses.

Mrs O'Donnell, said: “We are working hard to attract high calibre registered nurses, attending local and national recruitment events as well as advertising online and through social media. In fact, interviews are taking place for Bridport this week and as soon as we have more nurses in post, we will reopen beds. Any local registered nurses who would be interested in joining the Bridport Hospital team should call Matron Jane Turner on 01308 422 371.”

Services were cut at the hospital in 2012 despite a petition against them gathering more than 11,000 signatures.