A&E will not reopen 24/7 by Christmas
PUBLISHED: 06:57 17 November 2017
Weston General Hospital's A&E department will not reopen overnight before Christmas, bosses have told the Mercury this week.
The ‘temporary’ closure began back in July but will not be reversed in the ‘short term’ making it almost inevitable the ward will not reopen this year.
Campaigners fighting to save a 24/7 A&E for Weston fear it is likely to stay shut until at least spring 2018.
The overnight closure was introduced amid safety concerns as the ward was insufficiently staffed to operate 24/7, as highlighted within a scathing Care Quality Commission report.
While some consultants have been recruited in the intervening months, Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) is still some way short of being able to fully reopen A&E.
It means ambulances will continue to be sent to Bristol or Taunton overnight during arguably the NHS’s busiest few months with winter illnesses common and the Christmas party season in full swing.
Helen Thornton, of Protect Our NHS North Somerset, said: “We are very worried A&E will not reopen overnight before Christmas and from what we could gather at last week’s board meeting is unlikely to reopen before March – because although the hospital is recruiting doctors and nurses it takes a few months for them to start.
“Given winter is upon us not only will this impact on numbers of people accessing hospital services, but it will also potentially impact on journey times to A&Es in Bristol and Taunton if weather conditions are poor.
“In our view the hospital should be working with nearby hospitals to rotate staff so our A&E can reopen as soon as possible.”
A two-monthly review of the A&E closure was presented at last week’s board meeting. It said 80 per cent of patients attend the department as normal and the closure is working smoothly.
A WAHT spokesman said patient safety is its priority.
He added: “Our A&E department will therefore not reopen overnight in the short term – and not before Christmas.
“Overnight services will remain closed until we are confident safe and sustainable staffing levels are in place throughout the night. While we’re making progress with recruiting the numbers of permanent doctors needed to safely run the service at night – and we continue to do all we can – it remains a challenge.
“There’s no planned date for reopening currently.”
The trust must find at least two more consultants and four more middle-grade doctors before reaching minimum required staffing levels.
Ms Thornton urged people to write to councillors and MP John Penrose to help ‘get our A&E reopened’.