Health Secretary asked to look at A&E changes

More men than women were admitted due to drink-related conditions and the majority of people were ov

More men than women were admitted due to drink-related conditions and the majority of people were over 45. - Credit: Archant

‘Downgrading’ Weston General Hospital by cutting A&E opening hours could cause major problems with the town growing, according to North Somerset Council’s chief executive.

Jo Walker has written to the Government urging it to look at the proposals put out for consultation this month, which would see significant changes to the town’s healthcare.

Among the most notable alterations put forward by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the permanent closure of the hospital’s emergency department to walk-in patients between 10pm-8am. That has been the case ‘temporarily’ since July 2017.

MORE: Criticism of changes to A&E are not a surprise – CCG.

Ms Walker though, in her letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, raised concerns about what will happen should the CCG press ahead with such a plan.

She said: “I write on behalf of all elected members at North Somerset Council to make clear there is cross-party support for 24/7 accident and emergency services to be retained at Weston General Hospital.

“You will know there has been a temporary overnight closure in place since July 2017 and while we recognise that the need to secure patient safety was a driver in this decision, nevertheless we believe NHS colleagues need to address the current deficit in service level.

“We are concerned at the proposals to downgrade the hospital, particularly in view of the significant demographic growth in regard to young children and frail older people which is projected for North Somerset.

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“In part this will be accelerated by the additional housing numbers proposed for North Somerset.”

The CCG has stated it has taken onboard planned population growth within its Healthy Weston proposals.

A greater offering of children’s care and frailty services also form part of its consultation ideas.

Elfan Ap Rees, the council’s deputy leader, tweeted last week to say ‘we can’t keep building more houses without proper healthcare available, including a 24-hour A&E.”

But Conservative MP John Penrose has backed the CCG’s ideas, saying he is ‘puzzled’ by criticisms of the proposals.

He said last week: “The plans mean more people who need emergency treatment in the middle of the night will get it at Weston hospital in future, not less.”

But his comments have not been widely supported.

Cllr Mike Bell – a former election candidate for the Liberal Democrats – in response described the MP’s assertions as shameful.

The CCG’s consultation runs until May 24.