Hospital at risk of becoming ‘biggest care home in West’

Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton

Weston General Hospital. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

Weston General Hospital is at risk of becoming ‘the biggest care home in the South West’, a company director has warned.

Stephen Watters said dozens of patients are waiting to be discharged but the number of bed spaces is plummeting as residential care homes fail.

North Somerset Council denied there is a 'looming crisis' and said it is taking steps to address future needs. It said delays due to patients waiting for residential care are 'especially low'.

Community interest company director Mr Watters said: "Care homes are closing at a rapid rate. The ability to discharge patients is disappearing. If there is a flu crisis or a cold winter, the whole hospital is going to seize up and effectively become the biggest care home in the South West.

"The capacity is disappearing by the hour. It's a looming crisis."

North Somerset Council spends £100million on adult social care.

A June report to councillors said the number of care home beds had shrunk by 7.3 per cent over the past three years and the market was 'unlikely to deliver the 500 additional placements' the NHS had said will be needed.

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Mr Watters said: "I work in a lot of care homes and speak to a lot of managers. Most are talking about businesses failing or closing rather than building new capacity.

"At least four care homes in North Somerset are up for sale and no-one wants to buy them.

"It's a terribly difficult business. A lot of homes are historically small family businesses.

"The owners retire and their children don't want to inherit a business that's incredibly difficult.

"If the Care Quality Commission gives a bad review, it puts the home under massive pressure.

"Until the bubble bursts, I'm a lone voice in the wilderness.

"North Somerset Council needs to buy some of these homes as a short-term measure to take pressure off, then it needs to build more capacity."

A council spokesman said: "The uncertainty over future funding of adult social care and its ongoing impact on care providers is well documented and is clearly a national issue. As a council we recognise, given future demographic trends, additional capacity in the care sector will be required going forward, and we are taking active steps to address these projected needs.

"Social care delays are exactly half of the national average. Similarly, and more specifically, delays due to awaiting residential or nursing care are especially low.

"We have recently seen a new care home open in Yatton during the summer and discussions are ongoing with providers around future requirements, albeit these are commercially confidential.

"Similarly we would anticipate alternative options to meet future demand would include extra care and housing support options and there are several developments planned, including the new extra care development in Yatton.

"We recognise the longer-term challenges that meeting future demand for adult care services presents but would not describe the situation as a looming crisis."

Weston Area Health NHS Trust declined to comment.