Decision on a 24/7 A&E 'not a done deal' as CCG votes on public consultation
PUBLISHED: 15:58 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:31 19 February 2019
A decision on whether the A&E department at Weston General Hospital will be permanently closed overnight will go to public consultation after health chiefs pushed ahead with plans this week.
The Mercury reported last week the governing body of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) recommended A&E should not reopen at nights in the long term, with health bosses stating a medically-led service which would operate between 8am-10pm seven days per week as its preferred option.
A public meeting was held at the Royal Hotel on Tuesday where CCG members agreed to go to consultation, which will begin on Wednesday and last for 14 weeks.
Colin Bradbury, area director of North Somerset, stressed despite this being its preferred option, nothing was set in stone at the moment and therefore he urged people to make their views clear.
He said: “We have worked hard over the past 18 months to meet the needs of the local people of Weston and the surrounding areas.
“Weston is a growing town and our proposals are aimed at best serving the needs of the population, and the two areas which have grown the most concern older people and children.
“There has been an overall reduction in the number of walk-in patients using A&E, it is not always the best option.
“However, this is not a done deal, we want to hear different ideas and feedback.”
The CCG wants to put more focus on a frailty service for older people, an extended service for acutely unwell children, and a crisis recovery service would be located in the centre of the town, providing support for people with mental health needs.
Emergency services and complex operations will continue to be transferred to bigger hospitals at Bristol and Taunton – as was the case before and during the closure.
The CCG also wants to change the critical care service from an intensive care unit to a high dependency unit.
Dr Martin Jones, medical director at the CCG, said the governing body will ‘work fully’ with consultants who had put forward a plan for inpatient teams to support emergency doctors, which would have enabled the A&E to reopen overnight.
He added: “Clearly working together in a more joined up way is the way forward, we need to be proactive rather than reactive.
“These proposals are the outcome of an 18-month programme of work which has involved thousands of individual patients, staff and members of the public in the Weston locality.
“We’ve very grateful to everyone who has worked with us to get to this point and I urge everyone with an interest to get involved once the consultation launches, by sharing their views and feedback with us.”
The ‘temporary’ A&E night-time closure came into effect in July 2017, after a critical review of the service by the Care Quality Commission and amid fears staffing levels were insufficient to provide a safe care.
Dr Julia Ross, chief executive of the CCG, said: “We still have problems attracting and maintaining staff and we really want to and must make sure we meet the needs of the population of Weston.
“By specialising in areas of treatment for the elderly and children, it will make the hospital a one-stop shop for those who need specialist help.
“Most patients will continue to be treated at Weston General, which is now at 97 per cent of people, compared to 92 per cent before the temporary closure.”
Public meetings will take place during the consultation, with the first event taking place on February 26 and lasting until May 24, with a pause during April ahead of local elections.