The permanent overnight closure of Weston General Hospital’s emergency department is the preferred option of NHS managers, it has emerged this week.

Weston General’s A&E unit has been shut overnight for 18 months because it could not guarantee safe levels of staffing. It had been used by residents across the Burnham-On-Sea area.

The area’s Clinical Commissioning Group now wants the closure to be permanent, saying it will improve patient safety. It is set to consider the proposals at a meeting next week.

Under the proposals, serious emergencies would continue to be transferred to neighbouring hospitals.

A lack of specialist staff could also see intensive care provision at the hospital halved, with patients treated elsewhere.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group outlined the proposals in a statement detailing the “preferred option we are putting forward”.

It said the plans had been “shaped by doctors, health and care professionals and the public”.

Medical director Martin Jones said in a statement: “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.”

“We need a genuine 21st Century service that meets the needs of our patients now and in the future, and we believe our proposals will achieve that.”

Weston General’s A&E has been closed between 10pm and 8am since July 2017.

People with serious and life-threatening emergencies are told to dial 999 and ambulances will take them to Bristol or Taunton, which are about 20 and 28 miles away respectively.

Other plans under consideration include developing the hospital as a ‘centre of excellence’ for elderly patients, and increasing access to specialist outpatient services.

The hospital’s consultants’ body has written a letter of concern saying it fears that if acute services “collapse”, other services could drop below a critical mass necessary for the hospital to function properly.

The CCG’s Governing Body will consider the recommendation at its February meeting. If approved for consultation, this would begin later in February, with a range of ways for the public to have their say.