HEALTH services in North Cornwall are set for a major shot in the arm after extra nurses were taken on and more beds made available in the area's two hospitals.
Concerns were raised at the end of last year when ten beds – half the total number – were closed at Launceston Hospital.
This was caused by a number of staff going on long-term sickness, retirements and nurses returning to Stratton Hospital, which opened again on November 5 after undergoing a major refurbishment over 16 months.
An official opening of Stratton Hospital is planned for early next month, with a royal visit hoped for later in the year. Now both Launceston and Stratton are to have more nurses and more beds available.
Kevin Baber, chief executive of Peninsula Community Health, which runs both hospitals, told the Cornish Guardian: "Eight beds are currently open, though Stratton will go to 12 beds as planned later this month following a successful recruitment drive.
"New nurses for Stratton have begun permanent employment this week and require full induction before the beds can open. Therefore the additional beds are anticipated to open in two to three weeks' time.
"At Launceston nine beds are currently closed. However, similarly to Stratton, we have just successfully recruited three new fully trained nurses and two new healthcare assistants.
"Three are currently in induction phase. On completion of induction we anticipate to have between 13 and 15 beds open in 2 to 4 weeks time.
"We are awaiting start dates on the remaining two staff and once they have completed their induction Launceston will reopen the remaining 4 beds and be fully open. All 35 beds at Bodmin hospital are open."
He continued: "PCH is committed to ensuring that all of its community hospitals are appropriately equipped and safely staffed and will continue in 2013 to develop and evaluate services in North Cornwall to ensure that it is meeting the needs of the community.
"Beds are a significant part of the picture, but we also manage services in a wide range of settings including patients being looked after in the setting of their choice which is usually at or near to their home."
Candy Baker, chairman of the League of Friends of Stratton Hospital and also of the County League of Friends, said nurses had started their induction courses at Stratton and the six beds which were already open were constantly full.
"We are generally in the progress stage, but getting equipment delivered is a problem. We have advertised for more general service staff, which would have been called cleaners in the old days and are the backbone of the service.
"It is encouraging news and I am pleased to be at this stage. I never thought I would see the day when Stratton was rebuilt. I am thrilled to see the absolute commitment of the staff, their enthusiasm is plain to see."
The Stratton League of Friends has so far raised £553,000 towards their target of £1 million to equip the hospital – "not bad for a little bunch of workers", said Mrs Baker.
"We want to equip our hospital to the level that consultants find at district hospitals."
Pam Parnell, chairman of the League of Friends at Launceston Hospital, said they would be delighted to see the extra beds in use.