A&E months away from being fully-staffed for 24/7 opening

PUBLISHED: 06:00 12 January 2018

Chief executive James Rimmer.

Chief executive James Rimmer.

Archant

Weston General Hospital's A&E will not be in a position to resume a 24-hour service in the months to come as it struggles to attract high-level doctors.

A shortage in mid-level doctors and consultants has seen the emergency ward close nightly since July, and Weston Area Health NHS Trust’s (WAHT’s) board revealed this week it is still far from being fully staffed.

James Rimmer, WAHT’s chief executive, told the Mercury that recruiters are looking across the globe to find the right staff.

The trust announced on Tuesday its ninth – and final – mid-grade doctor will join the hospital at the end of May. All the recruits will undergo a three-month training programme so A&E can have a ‘viable rota’.

Phil Walmsley, WAHT’s director of operations, said the trust needs to make sure they are ‘safe to practise’ and are up to speed with British methods as they have been recruited from abroad.

The hiring of A&E consultants has been less successful.

The hospital still has the equivalent of 2.6 consultants, as it did when the temporary closure began. Eight are required.

Mr Rimmer believes once the middle tier of medics is in place and the long-term Healthy Weston plan for the town develops, it will be easier to attract consultants as there will be far less uncertainty.

He said recruiting emergency consultants was an issue for all hospital trusts, not just Weston.

Several changes have taken place at the hospital in recent months, including a revamp of how A&E looks and is structured.

Advanced nurse practitioners are now stationed within A&E to lessen emergency doctors’ work and to improve patient care.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), whose criticism last year led to the overnight closure, made an unannounced inspection last month. Mr Rimmer said the CQC recognised steps had been made to ensure patients are moved from A&E as soon as is practical.

A&E waiting times have reduced with 87 per cent of patients being seen within four hours since April 2017, compared with 77 per cent in 2016/17. The national target is 95 per cent.

Mr Rimmer paid tribute to the hard work of staff over the winter for embracing change and improving the hospital.

He said: “They have been exceptional. Sickness is hitting everyone but they have been exceptional and I cannot praise 
them enough.”

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