A NEW 26-bed medical ward at Salisbury District Hospital created after the last winter crisis cannot open because there are not enough nurses to staff it, the Journal can reveal.

Hospital bosses would not say whether the new ward would even be open in time for the coming winter, as they struggle to recruit the registered nurses they need.

The new ward, which does not yet have a name, was created as part of the £3million hospital redesign - a direct response to the winter crisis which left hundreds of patients either having operations postponed or being cared for in escalation areas.

A report for the hospital board said: “Currently, the ward is unable to open due to a lack of staff.”

A spokesman for the hospital said: “Our number one priority is to provide good quality, safe services for patients. There is a national shortage of registered nurses and, like other hospitals across the country, the Trust has had a difficulty in recruiting nurses to Salisbury. This has resulted in a delay in opening the new medical beds.”

In a report for board members, deputy chief executive Dr Christine Blanshard said recruitment campaigns were ongoing in the UK and in Australia, India and the United Arab Emirates.

The trust said it had made good progress on its programme of site changes over the past 10 months.

The new purpose-built eye clinic has opened and the acute medical unit is now larger and can see more emergency patients.

“The Trust is carrying out a major ongoing local, national and international recruitment campaign and is exploring a range of avenues to recruit a sufficient number of staff to open the medical beds,” a spokesman said.

“As part of its recruitment campaign the Trust has highlighted the benefits of living and working in Salisbury and the facilities that are available to staff, such as access to on-site leisure centre facilities, day nursery and holiday play scheme.”