NORTH SOMERSET: Overnight A&E closure continues
Weston General Hospital’s A&E will not reopen 24/7 due to ongoing staffing issues.
The department has been shut overnight since 2017 but there have been no problems with the quality of care, councillors were told this week.
They were urged to be responsible, stop talking about the hospital being downgraded and instead look ahead to an “exciting” new future.
Medics said it will see a different mix of patients but will treat more people than ever before.
Dr Andrew Hollowood, the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust’s deputy medical director, told North Somerset councillors on July 19: “We were asked to consider whether we could go back to a 24-hour-a-day seven-day rota for the emergency department.
“The staffing position in the emergency department has remained very difficult. There have been no problems in terms of quality of care.
“There’s no real position to take us back to a 24/7 rota. We are still advising that we continue with that 14/7 rota system.”
Concerns were raised when the A&E closed overnight that far more patients would be taken to Bristol, but he said that had not happened, adding: “Patients are taking the opportunities to seek alternative healthcare provision in terms of 111 or to the GP or attending through daytime hours.
“We are not overburdening the ambulance service overnight, nor are we unnecessarily transferring patients to Bristol overnight.”
The hospital closed the A&E between 10pm and 8am each night because it could not guarantee safe staffing levels overnight.
It described the move as temporary but many in the town feared that the 24-hour service would never be restored.
Dr Hollowood said staffing the A&E remains an issue and the trust relies heavily on bank and agency workers to fill the gaps, although the recent merger forming the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust has created new opportunities to work across both sites, which should help to attract more candidates.
Health overview and scrutiny panel chair Councillor Ciaran Cronnelly said: “The thing that worries me and I know that worries the public and councillors is we’ll be back here in five years time talking about downgrading the hospital further.
“What reassurances are there that the only way for Weston now is up?”
Dr Hollowood replied: “We’re not talking about downgrading anything – what we’re talking about is making Weston an exciting place to come and work and live.
“It’s about delivering care for patients in Weston and about delivering healthcare. That’s got to be an exciting model. What we can’t have is a position where staffing is difficult.
“The reputation for Weston has to be a place to come and be excited about living and working. We have to move forward.
“We should be responsible for the way we talk. We shouldn’t be talking about downgrading a unit at all. We should be talking about an exciting new model.”
Asked for his long-term vision for the hospital, Dr Hollowood said: “It has to be that vibrant dynamic hospital that suits the population of Weston.
“What it ultimately looks like in 10 years time is difficult to say but it has to focus around the population, it has to focus around the the frail, the elderly, it has to have an acute service and it has to deliver care for Weston.
“It has to be exciting, it has to be vibrant… a hospital that sits at the heart of a community.”
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group medical director Peter Brindle added: “The vision is that we will be seeing more and more patients at Weston over the years.
“Rather than downgrading in terms of less and less people going there we’re expecting it to be busier with higher turnover, maybe a different mix of patients but generally an increased number of people being served by Weston Hospital – far, far from any sign of downgrading.”
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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