Further plans to downgrade Weston General Hospital on horizon?
PUBLISHED: 18:30 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:30 08 April 2019
Weston's A&E could be downgraded to an urgent treatment centre within two years, if potential suggestions are endorsed by health bosses.
Proposals to shut A&E overnight are already being pursued, but a new report has revealed these may well be just the start of reducing emergency care at Weston General Hospital.
Longer-term ideas include scrapping critical care and consultant posts.
North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which decides which services are run at the hospital – has stressed nothing has been decided or will be imminently on these further suggestions.
Public consultation was launched in February over plans to permanently close A&E at night-time – effectively cementing the temporary measure introduced in July 2017.
The idea has been opposed by political groups and campaigners, including Save Weston’s A&E.
The hospital’s own consultant body also criticised the idea.
But on Tuesday, in a consultation update to the CCG, a report by the NHS’ South West Clinical Senate outlined some of the future changes it envisages for Weston hospital. It was finalised in February and produced as the CCG sought the green light from NHS England to consult on cutting A&E hours.
With the night-time closure and a reduction in emergency surgery forming step one for 2019, other more drastic ideas were suggested by the Senate.
For 2021-24, the 14-hour A&E faces being replaced by an urgent treatment centre, staffed by GPs, not consultants.
The third stage, from 2024-28, suggests the medical assessment unit be scrapped plus critical and anaesthetic care facilities axed.
Emergency surgery being farmed out to Bristol and Taunton, with ‘surgical-led hot clinics planned instead was also mentioned.
No changes to paediatric or maternity services are suggested.
While nothing is set in stone, the review does however question whether step three could be introduced even sooner.
A CCG spokesman said: “Our longer term ambitions to ensure safe, high quality and sustainable services at Weston General are set out clearly in the Healthy Weston consultation document.
“Although we also set out one potential model for 2025, we are not formally consulting on it at this stage. We are seeking feedback and ideas through our public engagement.
“We are already working closely with the hospital consultants group to evaluate their proposal as part of the current formal consultation on A&E and urgent care, critical care and emergency surgery.
“The public consultation is an opportunity for people to have their say and put ideas forward, and we encourage anyone interested to do so.”
A spokesman for the consultant body said the long-term report made for ‘depressing’ reading.
They added it could also have a hugely damaging impact on attracting medics to work in Weston – an issue which has been a problem for years given the small size of the hospital.