Health bosses to vote next week on closing A&E at night permanently

The accident occured close to Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton

The accident occured close to Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

The decision to shut Weston General Hospital’s A&E department overnight permanently will be confirmed next week, if the NHS’ Healthy Weston plans are approved.

Weston General Hospital and A & E Department.

Weston General Hospital and A & E Department. - Credit: Archant

The proposals by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) include giving Weston an improved GP service and more patients being admitted into the hospital, bypassing the traditional route through A&E at night.

Emergency surgery would stop between 8pm and 8am, meaning patients who need operations overnight will be transferred to neighbouring hospitals.

A&E hours set to be permanently reduced

The announcement this afternoon (Tuesday) comes following months of consultation.

The CCG received 3,000 responses during the process and said earlier this summer 70 per cent of people were 'concerned' by the prospect of A&E's hours being cut permanently to 8am-10pm.

Dr Martin Jones, medical director at BNSSG CCG, said: "If agreed, these proposals would ensure that Weston General Hospital is better able to achieve national clinical quality standards, as well as attract and retain the staff it needs.

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"That means a better local service for patients and the public.

"Clinicians across our area are clear that 'doing nothing' is not an option for Weston, and that these proposals are a big step in the right direction.

"Our vision has always been to have a dynamic and focussed hospital at the heart of the community, providing more of the services local people need most often.

"The public consultation period has also meant we've been able to listen to a broad range of views and make improvements to the proposals we originally put forward.

"For example, we've reduced the number of people who would need to travel out of Weston for emergency surgery under our proposals from 560 to just 80 a year.

"People told us travel was a big concern, and we've worked to address that while staying focussed on quality and safety."

A&E has not been open to walk-in admissions since July 2017.

Changes to Healthy Weston plan

The CCG has agreed to some changes in light of public feedback.

The Seashore Centre - for specialist children's urgent care - will run seven days a week, not five as planned.

A CCG spokesman said: "This would mean around 1,100 more children in need of emergency care being treated at Weston Hospital each year; and a further 570 receiving their planned care at Weston instead of travelling further afield."

People requiring some critical care for a single organ will be kept at Weston too, whereas before they would have needed to travel to a hospital in Bristol.

Dr Martin Jones and Dr Peter Collins.

Dr Martin Jones and Dr Peter Collins. - Credit: Archant

Hospital 'welcomes' proposals

Dr Peter Collins, medical director at Weston Area Health Trust which runs the hospital, said: "There are opportunities outlined in the CCG's proposals to grow our services, including those for frail and older people - using the expertise of our award winning frailty teams - and for children and young people which would see access to paediatric specialists and our excellent acute paediatric Seashore Centre enhanced.

"We also welcome a final decision on how we continue to provide critical care and 24/7 urgent and emergency care for the people of Weston and surrounding areas."

Public reaction

Last week John Penrose, Weston's MP, spoke glowingly about the plans on the table.

He went as far as to tell campaigners to stop 'playing politics' with people's lives and support what is on offer.

Protesters outside Weston General Hospital on July 4, 2017 when the overnight closure kicked in.

Protesters outside Weston General Hospital on July 4, 2017 when the overnight closure kicked in. - Credit: Archant

However, his opinions did not go down well.

Save Weston A&E said Labour, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats had put politics aside to unite to try to get Weston the best possible hospital.

It also accused Mr Penrose of changing his position several times on the issue.

What happens next?

The CCG will meet on October 1 at the Winter Gardens to vote on the proposals.

As it has spearheaded the project, it is expected they will be supported.

However, North Somerset Council's health overview and scrutiny panel will meet 24 hours beforehand at Weston Town Hall where councillors will consider the CCG's position and pass judgement.

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