Doctor resigns from Weston General Hospital's A&E department

Weston General Hospital main entrance

Weston General Hospital main entrance - Credit: Weston Area Health NHS Trust

A top doctor has resigned from Weston General Hospital’s A&E, sparking fears among staff that bosses will now shut it for good. 

Trust chiefs insist the emergency department (ED) has a future after the lead consultant handed in her notice and will leave at the end of December. 

It is the latest blow after a turbulent period that has seen the A&E shut overnight amid safety fears, a coronavirus outbreak forcing its temporary closure for nearly a month and a hospital trust merger. 

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Trust (UHBW) governor Graham Briscoe raised staff concerns about the intentions for the department in a written log to the board’s latest public meeting. 

He wrote: “I have received confirmation that Weston Hospital’s A&E lead consultant is resigning at the end of the year and that UHBW is finding it difficult to recruit a replacement. 

“I have also been advised that it appears to the A&E hospital staff that the merger has not resolved the serious A&E senior staff shortages at Weston hospital. 

“I can fully understand the concerns and worries that this knowledge can raise with the A&E department staff.  

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“They have already had to work through the overnight closure and could see this issue easily escalate into a determination to close the A&E department at Weston hospital, which is not a route I personally would wish to see.” 

He urged trust chiefs to talk to staff in person to allay their fears. 

“They are aware of this issue but are in the dark about what UHBW and the board intend to do to resolve the issue, and to let them continue to do what they do best – look after our emergency patients and give the best care and service they can,” Mr Briscoe said. 

“It is not really their fault working at their operational support level in this A&E department that they have all this uncertainty of their future around them while also giving their professional best and operating under this extreme Covid situation.” 

UHBW chief executive Robert Woolley told the meeting on Friday, November 27, that there was “appropriate staffing” in the A&E. 

He said they had not been sharing the lead consultant’s resignation publicly because it was “private between us and the individual. 

“But I can assure the board and the public that we’ve been on a very significant recruitment drive,” Mr Woolley said. 

“We have made appointments both at consultant and middle-grade level and we are just putting the final elements of a plan together to make sure there can be no interruption to services at Weston. 

“But clearly there is a significant pressure at the minute so we will have to keep that under review.” 

The trust said in a written reply to Mr Briscoe: “UHBW continues to explore a number of opportunities to secure a safe and sustainable ED service at Weston General Hospital. 

“Currently, the department is open between 8am to 10pm, seven days per week, and we can confirm there are no plans to change this level of service.  

“Recruitment pressures in ED have been a longstanding challenge at Weston and the impact of Covid-19 has undoubtedly hindered full merger opportunities and benefits.  

“The risks are fully recognised on divisional and corporate risk registers and are repeatedly reviewed.  

“However, Bristol and Weston are working collaboratively to mitigate these risks in a unified approach to ensure there is continuity and longevity of service. 

“While it is correct the Weston ED consultant has submitted her resignation, we are hopeful that the plans we are currently working through will provide assurance to all staff that there is a significant future for Weston ED.  

“As part of the plans, a robust medical and nursing recruitment process is in place in order to facilitate and support cross-site working.  

“Interviews are ongoing and all efforts to attract a wide pool of interest and retention are being made.” 

A petition to reopen Weston’s A&E at night now has almost 5,000 signatures. 

In October it was revealed a review by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG will take place in April despite calls for it to be delayed. 

The A&E’s temporary overnight closure was made permanent towards the end of last year amid a raft of changes following extensive public consultation and despite 70 per cent of residents saying they opposed the move. 

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