A consultation period is set to begin on plans to permanently shut Weston General Hospital’s A&E department overnight.
The facilities – which are used by people in the Burnham-On-Sea area – have been temporarily closed between 10pm and 8am since July 2017.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (BNSSG CCG) has announced that the public consultation will start on Wednesday 13th February, running for 14 weeks until Friday 24th May.
The closure came as a preventative measure due to a lack of staff and fears by the hospital and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that quality standards might not be met.
Protests have been held this week by members of the Save Weston A&E campaign group, who gathered outside the Royal Hotel where the CCG was meeting.
“This is simply not good enough for a growing town with a population equal to the size of Bath,” campaign group member Helen Thornton told the BBC.
Ms Thornton said the overnight closure at the hospital, which serves 200,000 people, was brought in on a temporary basis.
Medical director Martin Jones, from the CCG, said: “We know that staff at the hospital do a fantastic job every day, yet Weston Hospital is unable to meet national clinical quality standards across all its services.”
People with serious and life-threatening emergencies were told to dial 999 and ambulances would take them to Bristol or Taunton – about 20 and 28 miles away respectively.
“We were originally told the night-time closure of A&E was caused by failure to recruit sufficient doctors and consultants, but we now understand that the required numbers have been recruited,” said Ms Thornton.
“In addition, the consultants at Weston General Hospital have put forward their own plan to reopen a 24/7 A&E, and have had talks with the CCG about this plan – sadly the CCG has not listened,” she said.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said the “preferred option” for the permanent overnight closure had been “shaped by doctors, health and care professionals, and the public”.