ADMISSIONS to a number of beds had to be suspended owing to staff shortages at West Berkshire Community Hospital.
The alarm was raised by one nurse, who blamed poor wages and the high cost of living in West Berkshire for the struggle to attract qualified staff.
The nurse, who the NWN has agreed not to identify, said: “The hospital has had to close half of Highclere Ward this week.
“This is due to a shortage of nurses and staff sickness.
The nurse, who said staff had been sworn to secrecy about the situation, added: “We have one member of staff who can’t afford to have her car fixed and is having to get lifts into work.
“She is looking for another job outside nursing.
“It would be nice if our local MP supported the nurses a bit more, as he has always voted against a pay rise in line with a high cost of living area like ours.
“I found a payslip from five years ago and I earn less now due to changes in the pension and NI [National Insurance].
“If the lovely people of Newbury and Thatcham want a local hospital, they need to lobby their MP or the wonderful new unit being built for our cancer and renal patients will have no staff to run it.”
In fact, according to trustees of The Rosemary Appeal, the new Greenham Unit for cancer and renal patients will be unaffected, as it will be resourced and staffed completely separately to the main hospital.
A spokeswoman for the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Jade O’Connor, acknowledged the staffing problem and said: “Every day, management at West Berkshire Community Hospital assesses the number of nursing staff available to manage our wards safely for the number of patients we have in our inpatient wards.
“Unfortunately, due to these safe staffing levels, we have had to temporarily suspend admissions to a proportion of beds on Highclere Ward in October.”
She added: “There is a significant national issue around the shortage of qualified nursing staff and we are actively recruiting to the vacancies we have.
“We are using temporary staffing solutions during this process to ensure we maintain the appropriate level of safety and quality care to our patients.”
Highclere Ward is described as a “physical health inpatient ward for people who need rehabilitation following illness, injury or surgery” which also caters for people at the end of their life.