Number of critical care beds at Weston General Hospital to change?

The hospital, in Grange Road.

The hospital, in Grange Road. - Credit: Archant

Weston General Hospital could be set for four major changes and this week the Mercury is exploring how the number of beds the hospital has for its most seriously ill patients could change...

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital. - Credit: Archant

Why is change needed?

Weston General Hospital is struggling to meet the demand of North Somerset’s population and so changes must be made to it to make sure it remains a fully-functioning hospital.

North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which decides which services the hospital offers – is asking for public opinion on four changes.

The Grange Road hospital could offer a scaled-back service in its A&E department at night, offer more pre-planned and non-complex operations and perform fewer emergency operations.

The fourth change will revolve around the number of high-dependency beds at the hospital.

We caught up with the hospital’s medical director Dr Nick Lyons and the CCG’s chief clinical officer Dr Mary Backhouse…

Weston General Hospital could change how many beds it has for its most unwell patients.

Weston General Hospital could change how many beds it has for its most unwell patients. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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What is a high-dependency bed?

A high-dependency unit (HDU) bed is one step down from an intensive care unit (ITU) bed.

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Anyone who requires one-to-one support, needs help breathing or has multiple organ failure will require an ITU bed while a HDU bed is for someone who is still too unwell to be cared for on a ward, but who does not require such critical support.

People who have had major surgery, or have single-organ failure, would require a high-dependency bed.

The hospital could change in four key areas.

The hospital could change in four key areas. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What changes are proposed?

The hospital has five ITU beds on its critical care ward but no high-dependency beds, although the Mercury understands its ITU beds are often used for high-dependency patients. Nationally the NHS recommends eight critical care beds is the optimum number, and so the hospital is looking at how its critical care unit might change. Dr Lyons said this is the ‘final piece’ of the puzzle for the hospital, and added: “Whatever we decide about our emergency department and our services, there will be a need for high-dependency beds.

“What we do not know is what that looks like; if you are doing more emergency surgery, you need more ITU capacity, if you are only doing pre-planned surgery you have less need for ITU beds.”

The hospital could lower the rating of its ITU beds to have eight HDU beds on its critical care ward. Dr Lyons said: “Once we have decided on the first three ideas we can look and see what is needed and what the right number of beds is. We will look at whether we deal with all of those (ITU and HDU) patients in Weston, or whether we stabilise them and transfer them to a Bristol hospital.”

Dr Backhouse said some centres which do not have ITU beds already perform surgery, such as Emersons Green in Bristol. She said: “We know that model can work. But this is very much about making sure we have got the most appropriate services being delivered at Weston.

“What happens with these beds is dependent on the makeup of the hospital as a whole. It depends on the flow of patients through the emergency department, what type of emergency surgery you are doing and how unwell people are who come in for pre-planned care.”

How can I have my say?

The hospital must make changes to ensure it has a viable future.

The hospital must make changes to ensure it has a viable future. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

To comment on the ideas visit, email, write to North Somerset CCG, Castlewood, Clevedon, BS21 6FW or call 01275 546702.

Live Q&A session

The Mercury will host a Q&A session with the CCG at 5.30pm tomororw (Tuesday). You can follow the live chat and ask questions live through the Mercury’s Facebook and Twitter or in advance via

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