Cornwall’s main hospital trust has warned that staff are finding it ever more difficult to find places to live as the housing crisis continues – and that it is affecting its ability to recruit.
Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) was asked to comment on plans to build dedicated accommodation for students and healthworkers in Truro.
Under the plans at a site next to Truro College, close to the Treliske hospital, 89 beds would be provided in three blocks.
A planning application for the development went before Cornwall Council’s central sub-area planning committee on Monday morning and councillors decided to defer it due to concerns over parking.
In a letter to the council Roberta Fuller, head of hospital reconfiguration at RCHT, explained how the shortage of accommodation and rising property prices was affecting staff.
She said that while the hospital was “relatively well served for staff accommodation…this does not mean that there is sufficient accommodation to meet demand”.
Further she stated that the current accommodation block owned by the hospital (Pendeen House) is near the end of its functional life “and there is at present not available capital to rebuild or refurbish it in the short to medium term”.
Additional accommodation provided by Sanctuary Housing is, she explained, was usually used by medical students and did not provide enough accommodation for medical and nursing staff.
She said that the lack of affordable accommodation, particularly family accommodation, was “having a very real and negative impact on our ability to recruit and retain clinical staff”.
And she added that in conversations with senior managers in Devon and Cornwall “the issue of the lack of affordable housing to support key workers was raised on both calls as a current and growing concern”.
The letter states: “In the post-Covid pandemic period, when our NHS staff are all extremely tired after over a year of going above and beyond to support the community in Cornwall through three waves of infection, the additional strain of seeking, securing, and retaining a place to live is certainly impacting on our local workforce.
“In addition, long distance ‘weekly commuters’ from Devon and beyond are starting to struggle to find short term accommodation to continue to work at the trust without relocating fully.
“The housing problem is not only one of finding affordable housing for students and younger member of the workforce; many of our skilled and trained medical and nursing staff are in mid-life with children, pets, and extended families to consider. Finding affordable long-term family accommodation has become even more difficult since the Covid lockdown with the subsequent rise of house prices in Cornwall.”
It goes on to explain that the department of health and NHS England was working to look at the issue with a national review underway to look at key worker accommodation issues.
The letter then addresses the current plans to build accommodation in Truro saying: “As well as NHS recruitment and retention, there is a definite need for more affordable accommodation going forward to support the whole community. Your proposal to use the site at Chywhela, just a short walk from Royal Cornwall Hospital, will certainly assist in delivering some much-needed additional housing for key workers.
“This is particularly acute in Cornwall due to the desire of many people, since Covid, to relocate out of the big cities.
“Our local NHS workers working in acute care need to live within a reasonable commute of the Royal Cornwall Hospital, as they need to attend the physical place of work to deliver clinical care. They are being priced out of the market by city workers now more able to work remotely.”
In conclusion RCHT says that the development of key worker accommodation “is to be welcomed”.