Councillors defend their decision to decline referring A&E overnight closure to central Government

Save Weston A&E protest outside Weston Town Hall. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Save Weston A&E protest outside Weston Town Hall. Picture: MARK ATHERTON - Credit: Archant

Members of North Somerset Council’s health overview and scrutiny panel (HOSP) say it was ‘extremely unlikely’ the Government would have insisted Weston General Hospital’s A&E department reopened overnight, had it sought its assistance .

The panel, which consists of 10 councillors, voted on October 15 for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to review how the Healthy Weston programme is working after 12 months from when it is fully implemented in April 2020

Only its chairman Richard Tucker voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health for an immediate review.

Campaign group Save Weston A&E said before the vote it was the 'last chance' to protect a 24-hour emergency department.

MORE: A&E's 'temporary' overnight closure made permanent.

In a joint letter, HOSP members said: "The members of the panel are there because they are all passionate about ensuring the best possible safe healthcare for the people of North Somerset and Weston. We all use the same services as you.

"Over the past months and years we have listened carefully to the healthcare commissioners for North Somerset and to local groups and individuals.

"The panel has consistently challenged the healthcare commissioners on their plans and has received firm assurances this is not the first step in the downgrade of the A&E service."

The Mercury reported last week Save Weston A&E believed the panel was 'manipulated by the CCG' and doubts the CCG will agree to reopen A&E 24/7 in 2021.

Weston General Hospital and A & E Department.

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

MORE: Consultation on hospital a 'Trojan horse' ahead of future downgrades, say campaigners.

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HOSP members added: "We could have referred the changes to the full council to vote on referral to the Secretary of State for Health but we could not see what benefit this would bring.

"It is extremely unlikely the Secretary's decision would be to reopen the A&E 24/7 given the safety issues. Moreover, a recommendation to refer would delay the positive changes for many months pending a decision, and leave the hospital with even more difficulties in recruiting staff.

"We believe the best chance for a return to a 24/7 A&E service lies with the rapid merger of Weston Area Healthy NHS Trust with University Hospitals Bristol, and the review we have negotiated.

"HOSP will close monitoring the implementation of the merger and will regularly scrutinise patient outcomes up to the formal review."