Jeremy Hunt criticised for visiting Weston and staying silent on A&E
PUBLISHED: 08:30 12 August 2017
The Secretary of State for health Jeremy Hunt has been accused of showing a ‘distinct lack of leadership’ after visiting Weston General Hospital and failing to speak publicly on the closure of the town’s A&E.
During a tour of the South West, the health secretary spent two hours at the Weston-super-Mare hospital.
A Department of Health (DoH) spokesman told the Mercury the primary purpose of Mr Hunt’s visit was to ‘meet and engage with staff’, which is why the press were not invited.
But, despite the hospital being told of his visit two days prior, the Mercury understands many of its 2,000 staff did not learn of his visit until he had left.
Instead Mr Hunt gave a brief presentation on patient safety to around 50 members of staff. He also spent some time in the A&E department, which closed temporarily overnight on July 4 after inspectors found it could not provide a safe service.
In a statement following the visit, Mr Hunt said: “It was impressive to hear first-hand the improvements the hospital is making to patient safety.
“I know there is some way to go to make the improvements we all want to see – however I’m glad to see the Trust facing these challenges head on.”
It remains unknown when Weston’s A&E will fully re-open and what services it may offer.
A hospital spokesman said Mr Hunt’s visit was ‘not about A&E’ and it is unclear whether it was discussed during his meeting with hospital leaders.
A DoH spokesman said it was a ‘private meeting’ and they ‘do not have any further detail of what was discussed’.
A statement from hospital chief executive James Rimmer said it was ‘encouraging’ to hear Mr Hunt’s possitive comments about the hospital and its staff.
Weston’s MP John Penrose added improving patient safety is ‘central’ to the hospital’s work, and added: “The good news is Jeremy gets it, and wants to see the new plans build firm foundations for Weston’s future.”
But Tim Taylor – who represented Labour in Weston during the General Election – criticised Mr Hunt for flying ‘under the radar’.
He said: “Strong leadership from government and the hospital will be needed to get our A&E opened 24/7. Given the importance of this issue to people in Weston and the surrounding area, Mr Hunt’s failure to speak to media or residents shows a distinct lack of leadership.”