Hospital A&E faces prospect of permanent overnight closure under new proposals

Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton

Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

Proposals outlining the major restructuring of hospital services have been unveiled.

The chances of Weston General Hospital’s around-the-clock A&E returning appear slim, with it appearing in just one of five models put forward by the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Instead, a greater reliance on Bristol or Taunton hospitals looks increasingly likely, as the options on the table include ditching a consultant-led A&E and emergency surgery in Weston.

The CCG, however, emphasises that no decisions have been made and that it will consult with the public and key bodies – such as North Somerset Council – before finalising its plans.

Dr Martin Jones, a medical director for the CCG, said the safety of patients was paramount.

Weston’s A&E has been closed overnight for the past 17 months.

The move came due to a lack of staff and fears people would not be safe in a 24/7 department.

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Weston Area Health NHS Trust, which runs the site, has said that, when it can recruit enough consultants and middle-grade doctors, A&E will reopen fully – unless the CCG objects.

The five options put forward by the CCG, however, suggest it is increasingly likely the A&E’s capabilities will be reduced.

Of the five models, one is the old 24/7 service, while another is what the setup is today. The other options centre on a 14-hour-a-day A&E, with differing levels of consultants and procedures available in Weston.

The model with the most scaling back would see all patients who require emergency surgery going elsewhere. The CCG says, in such a scenario, one in eight patients would go to Bristol or Taunton, whereas now they would be seen in Weston.

Even if A&E were closed, patients could still be admitted to Weston General Hospital under changes made, thus reducing the need to travel elsewhere.

Dr Jones said creating a sustainable programme for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire was promoting the Healthy Weston review into services. He said: “Emergency surgeries, which are done infrequently in Weston, would be performed by specialists who do them on a more regular basis.”

Consultation will be held in 2019.