Call for hospital's search for partner to end

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 May 2014

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital.

Archant

A WESTON councillor is calling for the procurement exercise, which aims to find a partner to take over Weston General Hospital, to be abandoned before a private company takes over.

Councillor Mike Bell says with the future of the hospital and its emergency department in doubt it would be ‘madness’ for the process to continue, and has urged the NHS Trust Development Authority and the Department of Health to quickly pursue a partnership with another NHS trust.

The Weston Area NHS Trust must partner up with another organisation to secure its future, as it is not large enough or financially capable of turning itself into a foundation trust by next April – as required by new health regulations.

Last year 11 expressions of interest were received as part of the hospital’s procurement process, which included a variety of organisations ranging from University Hospitals 
Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to private company Circle, but a decision is yet to be made.

Now the leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for the search to come to an end.

Cllr Bell said: “We’ve had months of uncertainty, with the future of the hospital and emergency department shrouded in doubt. This cannot go on.

“The hospital trust has improved beyond all recognition in the last year and I believe it is time to stop the procurement process in its tracks and pursue a partnership with another NHS trust.

“The hospital has turned a corner and simply needs an effective NHS partner - such as Taunton or Bristol - to finish the job. We don’t need months of further uncertainty, an expensive and complicated procurement exercise or a disastrous private takeover.

“I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and the NHS Trust Development Authority to urge them to call time on the procurement process and instead give the Weston Trust board the flexibility to get on and secure an NHS partner.”

Councillor Bell, who is a member of the North Somerset Council Health Panel, added a prolonged procurement exercise would ‘bog down’ the local NHS in red tape, only to have the process delayed or stopped by the general election.

Cllr Bell said: “There is now a growing likelihood that even if the procurement exercise goes ahead, the proximity of the general election will mean that no decisions are made, possibility for years down the line.

“It’s madness and does nothing to improve healthcare for local people.”

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