'David and Goliath' battle to keep A&E at night - campaigners
PUBLISHED: 12:31 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:31 11 July 2019
An emergency medicine expert has warned Weston 'will be the largest town in England without a general hospital', if core services are cut.
Save Weston A&E organised a rally for the Italian Gardens on Saturday, to mark two years since the department's overnight closure was introduced.
Consultant Vincent Argent, a specialist in rural and seaside hospitals, warned of the dangers of Weston losing its A&E, and the closure of other core departments.
He said: "Rural hospitals like Weston need to be able to provide primary care and react to emergency situations. They need core services like A&E, maternity and general purpose surgery.
"They (bosses) say there is a problem attracting staff to Weston - the simple reason is none of them want to come here because of the uncertainty surrounding the hospital's services."
Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) made the decision in 2017 to close A&E at night because it did not have enough staff for the department to operate safely.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to make the move permanent, saying patients will go to Bristol or Taunton, which would be the most appropriate place for them to receive care.
A merger between WAHT and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is also planned.
Rally organiser Steve Timmins said: "We have put in a 41-page response to the CCG Healthy Weston consultation full of wonderful facts and figures.
"Hopefully it will see how preposterous to delay a merger with Bristol Royal Infirmary is."
Cllr Tim Taylor, who also spoke at the rally, said: "It is a David and Goliath struggle but we all know who won that battle.
"It is going to be a hard fight, and everyone in Weston, at all levels of government, are going to need to pull together to keep our A&E open.
"Hopefully the change in administration in the Town Hall might help with this.
"But we need to realise we have to fight for these services or we will lose them. We need to fight for Weston."
Cllr Patrick Keating added: "Closing the A&E is not a viable option for a town the size of Weston."
The CCG has not put forward plans to fully close the A&E.
Dr Martin Jones, local GP and medical director at BNSSG CCG said: "Our proposals - developed by doctors, in partnership with local people and hospital staff - are designed to better serve the needs of everyone in the local area, including a growing number of frail older people, young families with children, and people affected by mental illness.
"24/7 urgent and emergency care would continue to be provided at Weston Hospital, but in a different way.
"The current temporary A&E opening times of 8am to 10pm would be made permanent, supported by an improved out-of-hours service and more patients admitted directly onto wards overnight via GP referral."