July 5, 2017
Protest held as Weston General's A&E department closes overnight

A protest has been held outside Weston General Hospital as its A&E department started closing overnight from Tuesday (July 4th) because it cannot be staffed safely.

The hospital, which serves more than 200,000 people in Weston-super-Mare, Burnham-On-Sea and the surrounding area, is now shut between 10pm and 8am each day.

Those with serious and life-threatening emergencies are being told to dial 999 and ambulances will take them to Bristol or Taunton.

The Trust said the the temporary move was necessary until it can guarantee safe levels of staffing overnight.

It comes after a health watchdog rated its emergency care as "inadequate".

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report warned "significant improvements" must be made.

Medical director Dr Peter Collins described the move as "a very difficult decision" but added "it is our ability to recruit that is our challenge, not our ability to care".

But the public sector workers' union Unison warned every night the department is closed "is a risk to the people of Weston".

Christine Cook, of Unison, said the nearest alternatives were in Bristol or Taunton - some 27 miles away - would leave "sick people a long way from help and putting more strain on health staff at other hospitals".

"I'm concerned that behind the lack of answers from the trust is a government plan to further downgrade Weston Hospital."

"A similar closure in Lincolnshire has been extended to over a year. If that happens here, related departments like the intensive care unit will be affected too."

Burnham's MP James Heappey, right, told "Whilst it is pleasing to see the work of so many staff at Weston Hospital recognised in the many improvements identified by the Care Quality Commission, it is hugely concerning that the A&E must close overnight until more sustainable levels of staffing can be achieved."

"Local health chiefs have reassured me that A&E admissions at Weston from residents in Somerset - as opposed to North Somerset - average around four per night and that this can easily be covered by Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton. I also understand that serious cases that require an ambulance are already mostly directed to the larger hospitals in Bristol or Taunton."

"Nonetheless, Weston Hospital is popular with those of us who live in the north western corner of Somerset and so the A&E must re-open as soon as possible. I will be supporting Weston's MP, John Penrose, in raising the ongoing challenge we face in clinician recruitment for Somerset's NHS with Ministers. It is frustrating that yet again, we have the cash but cannot recruit the staff to spend it on."


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