Hospital service to relocate following staff shortages

Weston General Hospital will see its Cellular Pathology service move to Bristol next year.Picture: M

Weston General Hospital will see its Cellular Pathology service move to Bristol next year.Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

A life-saving diagnostic service at Weston-super-Mare General Hospital will be lost to Bristol next year because of its continuing struggle to recruit medical staff.

Weston’s cellular pathology service will be moving to Southmead Hospital in the spring.

The revelation follows other high-profile measures taken by Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) to reduce the amount of patients it sees because it cannot find the right number of staff.

The hospital made the decision to shut its A&E overnight last July due to staff shortages, and in May changes to the maternity unit were also made.

The emergency department’s 10pm-8am is still labelled a ‘temporary’ measure, nearly 18 months on.

The pathology service is one of three such department at the hospital, which specialises in the diagnosis of diseases and its practitioners give further advice and treatment to people who need it.

Five members of staff who work for the service took part in a consultation earlier this month to discuss if they want to stay in Weston or move to Southmead’s existing pathology department.

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WAHT and North Bristol NHS trusts released a joint statement which said: “The service at Weston hospital will be moving to Bristol next year to address the challenges of recruiting medical staff within this small, yet important specialist department.

“This is also to ensure a robust, sustainable and high-quality service remains available to our patients.”

The department at Southmead provides a number of services to its patients, including histopathology and diagnostic cytopathology – which both specialise in the examination of human tissue and cells to diagnose disease and illnesses.

The statement continued to say: “These services, which also includes cervical cytology screening, are provided to both Southmead and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust – as well as GPs and other healthcare providers – and it is a positive move for Weston to join this collaboration.

“Patients will not be affected by this change, however, it is important our focus is on supporting the affected staff to ensure they are able to make decisions which are right for them.”

This follows the news published by the Mercury of a report carried out by the area’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) calling for an overhaul of Weston hospital services.

This is due to the hospital potentially facing a loss of £22million per year by 2024, unless changes are made.

A consultation is due to take place in the coming weeks – but people will not find out about future plans involving the health trust until next year.