No long-term hospital decision yet - Health Secretary

PUBLISHED: 06:23 24 September 2013

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

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NO DECISION has been made regarding Weston General Hospital's long-term future, according to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt with John Penrose MP arriving.Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt with John Penrose MP arriving.

Mr Hunt said it was important that Weston will retain its hospital and the NHS services which are most needed.

Securing the hospital’s future will most likely be achieved through a partnership with a larger NHS trust or a private company, although Mr Hunt reiterated no decision has been reached. His words have failed to convince some however, with campaigners protesting outside the Royal Hotel on September 13 against perceived ‘privatisation of the NHS’.

Mr Hunt said: “We need to do what’s best to improve already outstanding care at Weston General Hospital and that decision has not yet been taken.

“It won’t be an ideological one but it will be taken for a very important hospital to allow it to deliver the services it is expected to.”

WAHT must partner up with another organisation as it is neither large enough nor financially capable of turning itself into a foundation trust by next April – as required by new health regulations.

The Mercury exclusively revealed in August that 11 expressions of interest had been received as part of the hospital’s procurement process.

They included a variety of organisations ranging from University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust to private company Circle.

Protest groups however are adamant that bringing a private third party into running an NHS hospital will see care standards suffer.

The Weston General Hospital Campaign group protested outside the Royal Hotel on Weston seafront, where Mr Hunt was having lunch with the local Conservative Association.

Campaign spokesman Dr Richard Lawson said: “We are campaigning for an existing NHS trust to take over the running of our hospital and for the continuation of a full, 24 hour, A&E service at Weston General.

“We believe that only an NHS organisation would have our local community as its first priority, and put patients before profits.”

A WAHT spokesman has stressed regardless of the final decision, Weston General Hospital will remain within the NHS, treat people for free and have NHS staff working within it.

Mr Hunt’s visit came just days after announcing £4.8million would be handed to WAHT to improve its A&E department and said the Government was committed to ensuring problems experienced this year are not repeated.

He said: “We are giving real help for this winter and the next winter and looking at long-term changes to sustain emergency departments across the country.”

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