Weston hospital has "completely mitigated" loss of junior doctors

Main entrance of Weston General Hospital

Main entrance of Weston General Hospital - Credit: Weston Area Health NHS Trust

Weston General Hospital bosses have “completely mitigated” the loss of 10 trainee doctors removed amid “unacceptable” working conditions. 

The General Medical Council said junior medical staff were frequently left without adequate senior supervision and support on understaffed wards. 

Health Education England (HEE), which rarely uses its power to withdraw trainees, said it had a responsibility for their welfare. 

The foundation year one doctors, all on a general medicine rota, were removed in April but trust chief executive Robert Woolley hopes trainees can be restored in August. 

More: Action plan agreed to retain trainee doctors at Weston General Hospital’s A&E department.

The step was taken as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found nursing shortages, worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, put patients and staff at risk.

Mr Woolley told the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Trust on May 27: “We’ve accelerated our work in response to the CQC’s inspection of medicine at Weston General. 
“We’re working with HEE following their removal of foundation year doctors from medicine at Weston in April. We’ve completely mitigated the loss of those trainees. 

“We’re still in discussion with HEE about the potential restoration of trainees for the next rotation, which will be in August.” 

Weston’s A&E has been shut overnight since 2017 because of staffing issues. The move was intended to be temporary but became permanent in 2019. 

The move by HEE echoes a warning from the General Medical Council (GMC) that year that trainees could be removed from Weston General’s emergency department due to concerns around their supervision and adequate staffing levels. 

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After the trust drew up an action plan it said they would stay on in their training posts, although it continues to monitor the situation at Weston General.

Professor Colin Melville, the GMC’s director of education and standards, said: “The working conditions for medicine trainees at Weston General Hospital were unacceptable, with junior medical staff frequently left without adequate senior supervision and support on understaffed wards. The trust was not meeting the standards we require.

“We stand with HEE’s decision to remove foundation trainees, to ensure their safety and to protect patients. These issues have waxed and waned for too long and actions taken by the trust have not been sufficient or sustainable. The trust must make urgent improvements to address remaining concerns putting safety at risk. 

“We worked with our partners to relocate trainees to places where they can work and learn in a supportive environment.”

Geoff Smith, the regional postgraduate dean at Health Education England, said: “Trainee education and patient safety are the primary concerns for HEE, which is underpinned by our responsibility for the welfare of doctors in training and delivering of the workforce. 

“We are working very closely with the trust and the GMC to ensure all trainees are fully supported.” 

UHBW medical director Dr William Oldfield said: “We recognise the seriousness of the step taken by Health Education England to temporarily suspend the training programme for a small number of junior doctors at Weston General Hospital. 

“We are working to provide the assurance Health Education England require to allow this training to recommence, and in the meantime we have appropriately mitigated the impact on services at Weston.”

The trust did not say how the impact had been mitigated.

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