THE inpatient ward at the Tyrrell hospital in Ilfracombe has been shut, for up to three months, after safety concerns were raised over the state of the hospital's lift because several people, including a patient, have been trapped in it.
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust opted to temporarily close the ward this afternoon and the decsion will come into effect tomorrow.
The Minor Injury Unit (MIU) and x-ray and outpatient departments will remain open as usual.
Kate Lyons, the Trust's director of operations, said: "Decisions like this are not taken lightly – and the safety of our patients is our number one priority.
"We have experienced problems with the lift during the past three weeks, which have led to one patient and three members of staff becoming stuck.
"Many of our patients and their relatives are elderly, so the lift is important for ease of access, as well as for the ambulance service for admissions and discharges.
"A number of attempts were made to rectify the problem but after these failed, a full risk assessment was carried out.
"Our experts were not confident in the lift's reliability, so we had to make this decision in the best interests of all concerned.
"We apologise for any disruption this temporary closure to inpatients may cause."
Four patients currently staying on the ward will be moved to South Molton Hospital while the Tyrrell will remain closed to inpatients until the lift is fully operational.
Following expert advice, the Trust is to upgrade the control system of the lift rather than repair the existing one. The alarm system will also be reviewed.
A new control system will be designed and installed as soon as possible, although early estimates suggest this may take up to 12 weeks.
Mrs Lyons said: "We will do all we can to get the lift up and running as soon as we can, and once this is done we will be able to reopen the inpatient ward at Tyrrell."
John Womersley, chairman of the northern locality Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Patient safety is our number one priority and with this in mind we strongly support the decision to relocate inpatient beds at Tyrrell Hospital in Ilfracombe to South Molton.
"We look forward to the lift being upgraded and the beds, which have been temporarily relocated, opening again as soon as possible."