Weston General Hospital's A&E department to close overnight from July 4 as service is 'not safe'

PUBLISHED: 06:30 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:04 15 June 2017

Weston General Hospital.

Weston General Hospital.

Archant

The accident and emergency (A&E) department at Weston General Hospital will temporarily close overnight from July 4.

James Rimmer, chief executive of Weston General Hospital.James Rimmer, chief executive of Weston General Hospital.

The Weston-super-Mare hospital has this morning (Wednesday) announced its emergency department will close between 10pm and 8am from July 4, after a healthcare watchdog found the service is not safe for patients.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has told the hospital it requires improvement and must make urgent changes to its emergency care, which is rated as inadequate.

The hospital is run by Weston Area Health NHS Trust, which has also been told it requires improvement.

The Trust’s chief executive James Rimmer has now revealed the A&E will be closed overnight in response to the damning CQC report.

When asked by the Mercury how long the closure will be in place for Mr Rimmer said he did not know, but added: “I think it is highly likely the service will look relatively different in the future.”

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) released its inspection report for the Grange Road hospital today and its chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: “There were not always enough senior doctors on duty to ensure safe care in the emergency departments and medical wards.”

He said there is a ‘critical over-reliance’ on temporary agency staff to cover senior positions at the hospital and patients wait even longer at night because no senior doctors are available.

He added: “The corridor area in the emergency department was often used when there were no cubicles available, even though it was not a safe environment for emergency care and treatment.

“We found that ambulances had to wait too long to discharge their patients.

“We have told the Trust to make significant changes without further delay.”

In response, the hospital announced it will close its A&E department from 10pm-8am.

The hospital addressed rumours about the closure last week, but Mr Rimmer said the decision was not taken until the hospital received its CQC report on Friday, June 9.

He told the Mercury: “At no stage would we want to mislead the people of Weston. What we said then is still the case, no long-term changes can happen without public consultation.”

Mr Rimmer added: “Our A&E has been fragile for several years. We have severe challenges with recruiting and retaining senior doctors and staff to our A&E department 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and now need to find new ways to address this.

“We are at risk of falling short of providing safe levels of staffing in our A&E department at night.

“Our staff have worked incredibly hard to shore up the department, but despite significant efforts we just can’t recruit enough permanent doctors.”

While the department is closed, emergency patients will be sent directly to hospitals elsewhere; with most being sent to Bristol. Most patients are expected to be transferred back to Weston within two to three days, if they are not able to return home beforehand.

Additional ambulances will be put on in Weston to cope with the additional demand and journey times.

North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group has recently asked for public opinion on four ideas, including scaling back the hospital’s A&E service at night, but its final proposals have not yet been released.

UPDATE: Weston General Hospital A&E: ‘It’s essential closure is temporary’ – MP John Penrose

* For the full story, including an in-depth interview with Mr Rimmer, pick up the Mercury tomorrow (Thursday).

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