A COMMUNITY hospital patients feared would stay closed forever after being forced to shut over staff shortages has reopened following a massive recruitment drive.

Ward sister Lucy Barrett welcomed the first three patients to City Community Hospital, based in Headington, today now that staffing levels have been boosted.

Patients have been relocated from other Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust-run community hospitals across the county and are expected to be joined by more patients each day this week until the ward reaches its 12-bed capacity.

It is hoped a further four beds will open in January during the busy winter period.

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Some of the more than 40 staff who are working on the ward – including nurses, health care assistants, nurse associate trainees, admin teams, therapists and housekeeping staff – came together on Friday for a reorientation day and celebration.

Ms Barrett, who has joined the trust from the nearby Churchill Hospital, will be supported by deputy ward sisters Angela Jacob and Sindhu Nediyanickal and clinical development nurse Steve McCorley.

She said: “When I first visited City Comm, even before I applied for the job, it looked amazing to me and felt like home. It gave me a great feeling.

Oxford Mail:

“Now it’s all set up and operational I’m so excited. Our staff are amazing. Some may have doubted the ward would re-open. So, to see them back here is really touching; it’s like a family reunion.

“We will be offering the highest level of care, commitment and compassion to all our patients.”

The trust's board of directors approved the reopening at a meeting in September during which it heard about recruitment efforts for the hospital, which was closed in May on safety grounds due to a lack of staff and a 'heavy' reliance on agency workers.

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The decision to temporarily shut the ward was criticised by Oxfordshire County Council’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, who agreed a motion of no confidence against Oxford Health chiefs in May, claiming there had been a lack of communication.

Senior matron of all the trust's community hospitals, Helen Lambourne, said: “We’ve worked so hard over the summer to make this happen. We have amazing staff who have gone out and done their bit.

“We have also done our bit as a senior team and made sure we have got the right leadership in place to take City Comm forward into a new era."

Despite the reopening, the long-term future of the hospital remains in doubt with Oxford Health chief executive Stuart Bell, who is set to retire next year, saying at the September board meeting contingency plans created during the closure had given the trust ‘food for thought’ about the community hospital in its current form.