Weston hospital has ‘lessons to learn’ after coronavirus outbreak

UHBW chief executive Robert Woolley addressing the council's scrutiny panel.

UHBW chief executive Robert Woolley addressing the council's scrutiny panel. - Credit: Archant

An investigation into the cause of the coronavirus outbreak at Weston General Hospital is ongoing and bosses say there will be ‘lessons to learn’ due to the number of asymptomatic staff with the disease,

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), which runs the hospital, has tested and retested all patients and staff since the building closed to new patients on May 25 following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Initial analysis has shown there are no new cases of coronavirus in the wards and that the outbreak has not spread into the community.

Robert Woolley, chief executive of UHBW, said he hopes the hospital will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

Speaking at North Somerset Council’s health overview and scrutiny panel meeting yesterday (Thursday), Mr Woolley said: “It does appear that there isn’t evidence of any significant transmission of Covid-19 from the hospital into the community.

“That to me is validation of the very prompt action we took last week to contain the infection spike in the hospital.

“Approximately six per cent of all the staff we’ve tested are asymptomatic but have the infection. That’s a very significant finding. It’s significant for the BRI and all the hospitals in Bristol. It’s of huge significance for the NHS.”

He added: “I still plan to reopen services as soon as possible, when we have confidence it’s safe to do so.

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“The criteria won’t surprise you. There shouldn’t be any evidence of onward transmission inside the hospital, the hospital should be deep-cleaned, that we know we have enough staff, and that we can appropriately configure the wards so we’re rigorous about social distancing.

“Subject to those conditions being met, we may be in a position to start reopening services next week. We’re likely to reopen in a phased way.

“We have an incident investigation that will take some time to complete. No one has any evidence that one potential cause is any more likely than any other.

“There will be lessons for the hospital, lessons for the trust and maybe lessons for the NHS, particularly about the issue of asymptomatic staff and how we can manage that risk.”

North Somerset Council’s deputy leader Mike Bell said the the right things had been done since the outbreak but stressed the lack of communication had led to speculation and whistle-blowers.

Mr Woolley admitted the trust had ‘scrambled’ to tell staff over the bank holiday weekend when they decided to close the hospital, but said they had prioritised staff over the media.

He added: “If there’s any lack of communication, it’s because we’re so damn busy trying to manage the situation.”

Mr Woolley said any agency staff that had been working in the hospital and in a care have now been prevented from doing so.