Weston General Hospital changes explained: More pre-planned surgery for Weston-super-Mare

The hospital, in Grange Road.

The hospital, in Grange Road. - Credit: Archant

Weston General Hospital has faced increasing demand in recent years, but now changes are being planned in the hope it will remain a fully-functioning part of the NHS for decades to come by introducing more pre-planned surgery at the hospital...

More routine surgeries will take place in Weston under the new plans.

More routine surgeries will take place in Weston under the new plans. - Credit: Archant

The hospital in Weston-super-Mare is struggling to meet the demands of North Somerset’s growing and ageing population. It is run by Weston Area Health NHS Trust, which is the smallest trust in the country, and faces an uphill battle trying to fund its services with the limited Government money available.

North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which is in charge of deciding what services the hospital does and does not provide – is now asking for public opinion on four key changes.

The changes involve scaling back accident and emergency (A&E) service at night, increasing pre-planned surgeries, reducing emergency surgeries and adding more high-dependency beds.

Last week the Mercury examined the planned changes to A&E, and this week the focus is on the idea of bringing more pre-planned, non-complex surgery to Weston.

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Mercury content editor Briana Millett spoke to hospital medical director Dr Nick Lyons and the CCG’s chief clinical officer Dr Mary Backhouse to find out more…

Why bring more pre-planned surgery to Weston?

Weston General Hospital's surgical team.

Weston General Hospital's surgical team. - Credit: Archant

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Dr Backhouse, a practising GP in North Somerset, said the CCG has looked at where the hospital excels to decide which services it should focus on.

She added: “What patients give us really positive feedback on are planned operations.

“We have got a really good record of recruiting surgeons and at Weston there are four theatres which were all refurbished in 2015.

“We have got the staff and we have got the theatre numbers, so we have been talking to the surgeons around the wider area about how we make sure we are using this really important resource to the best effect.

The hospital has a good history of recruiting surgeons.

The hospital has a good history of recruiting surgeons. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“For some of the other hospitals, Weston’s theatres are a really useful resource.”

How will it work?

The hospital’s operating theatres are some of the best in the country, after a £2.4million refurbishment in 2015 which saw kitted out with high-tech systems to make them even more sterile than theatres at other hospitals. NHS bosses want people to choose to have their operations in Weston and want to focus on non-complex, pre-planned surgeries.

Weston General Hospital will likely perform less emergency surgery to focus on more non-complex, pre

Weston General Hospital will likely perform less emergency surgery to focus on more non-complex, pre-planned operations. - Credit: Archant

This will inclde things like joint replacements, breast cancer surgery, gallbladder removals and bowel surgeries, with patients from outside North Somerset likely to also be given the option to have surgery here. Dr Backhouse said: “This is about helping people to understand Weston is a good choice; it is a safe environment, there is good care and enough nurses.”

The hospital struggles to recruit doctors in some areas – such as emergency care – but Dr Backhouse said it does not struggle to recruit good surgeons. She added: “When these jobs become available there is a lot of competition – people want to come and work in Weston.”

Dr Lyons said the change is also about ensuring Weston General Hospital can cope with the area’s growing elderly population. He said: “Increasingly it’s people in their 70s, 80s and even in their 90s who are having these operations.

“If you’re having an operation in your 90s you want to make sure that you have got a good surgeon, good nursing staff and doctors who are experts in caring for the elderly after surgery. The likely thing is we will become a centre of excellence for routine surgery for the elderly population.”

Can Weston General Hospital cope with more surgery?

Dr Lyons said there is some extra capacity in theatres at the moment, but under these proposals fewer emergency operations will take place.

He added: “When you offer emergency surgery you have to reserve space for those patients, because we don’t know what’s going to be needed.

“But, if we are having less emergency surgery we can book more efficiently for planned operations.”

Weston’s hospital has reached maximum capacity multiple times this winter, which meant it had to cancel dozens of operations due to lack of bed space.

Dr Lyons says the hospital has already completed work to ensure beds remain available for scheduled patients.

How can I have my say?

The hospital and the CCG both want public feedback on the proposals.

People can visit www.northsomersetccg.nhs.uk/wgh-engagement to fill in a survey, email wgh.engagement@nhs.net, send letters to North Somerset CCG, Castlewood, Clevedon, BS21 6FW or call 01275 546702.

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