Future of Weston General Hospital debated at Protect Our NHS hustings
PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:18 02 December 2019
Weston General Hospital's A&E overnight closure sparked a heated debate as MP candidates discussed health at a hustings in Weston.
Protect Our NHS invited Labour's Tim Taylor, Liberal Democrats' Patrick Keating, Green Party candidate Suneil Basu, as well as John Penrose, who has been the Conservative MP for 14 years, to speak at the event at the town's Victoria Methodist Church on Tuesday.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)'s plans to close Weston hospital's A&E permanently overnight in October dominated the conversation, and candidates put forward their stance on the situation.
The unit has been shut overnight since July 2017 due to the CCG not being able to guarantee 'safe levels of staffing' and to 'improve patient safety'.
North Somerset Council's health overview and scrutiny panel decided not to ask the Government to intervene on the issue in October, but the CCG said it would review the closure plans in April 2021.
MORE: Weston A&E overnight closure confirmed with CCG warning emergency department may completely shut
Mr Penrose said: "It's only right for a growing town like Weston to have an overnight A&E - it is absolutely essential."
He told the 93-strong audience he did not know about the A&E's overnight temporary closure before it was announced in June 2017 and said it is vital the unit is 'medically safe' to open overnight.
He also argued a planned merger between Bristol Royal Infirmary and Weston's hospital will address 'real and pressing problems' the unit faces.
Taylor said: "It really isn't working for people to travel to Bristol or Southmead to receive treatment, it's important for our community to fight for our A&E."
He pledged if elected he 'won't wait until 2021' for the CCG to review its hospital plans, and that 'something needs to be done about it now'.
Mr Basu said: "We need to nationalise the NHS. It is going to get worse, and if we don't make a change to our NHS, it will be privatised."
He also warned that medical staff do not want to work in Weston because of the uncertainty around the hospital's future.
Mr Keating said: "We need to make the profession attractive to people, by addressing staffing shortages and introducing flexible working hours.
He said no one can 'guarantee' Weston's A&E opening 24/7, but that the town needs an overnight provision it 'deserves'.