Government cash to pay for GP services in Weston General Hospital's A&E - but long-term plan for department unclear
PUBLISHED: 08:55 22 June 2017
Weston General Hospital will be given £842,000 from the Government to prepare its 'inadequate' A&E department for winter - but it is still unable to provide details on how its overnight service will run in the future.
The Weston-super-Mare hospital announced last week its A&E will close overnight from July 4 after the Care Quality Commission issued the hospital with a formal warning and ordered its bosses to overhaul the department, in part because its staffing levels made it unsafe for patients.
The hospital requires 23 full-time doctors to run a safe A&E department, but it can cover only the equivalent of 13.58 permanent posts. This means it is reliant on temporary staff, and it spent more than £200,000 on locum doctors in its A&E department in May and June alone.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has now announced millions in funding to help hospitals nationwide to prepare for winter.
Weston General will receive £842,600 which will be used to redesign the A&E.
This could include new GP services in the department and provide cash to pay for nurse practitioners, pharmacists and physiotherapists.
The hospital’s director of operations Phil Walmsley said: “This ensures all our patients – those with serious life-threatening emergencies and those with more minor conditions – are directed to the most appropriate care for their needs as quickly as possible. It also makes it easier for A&E staff to work more effectively.
“We’ll begin investing in our A&E department immediately, so we’re better equipped to manage the needs of our community.”
But when the Mercury asked the hospital what work is taking place to ensure the A&E reopens 24 hours a day as soon as possible, a spokesman would say only that details ‘are still being worked through’.
Weston’s MP John Penrose met with health ministers and regulators on Monday, and said he has been promised an outline of a long-term plan for the A&E in ‘about six weeks’. He said: “Nobody likes the idea of a temporary night-time A&E closure, but we’ve got to put patient safety first.
“The problem is staffing. A hospital like Weston can’t offer the career opportunities newly-qualified A&E doctors are looking for.
“That means they can’t fill empty jobs, and have to use temporary doctors and nurses which costs miles more and, in the long term, isn’t medically safe for patients either.
“Closing our A&E overnight is more expensive than keeping it open. So it’s in everyone’s interest to find a sustainable answer quickly.”