Burnham-On-Sea’s MP has expressed his concern at the decision to temporarily close the Accident and Emergency department at Weston General Hospital overnight because it cannot find enough senior doctors to staff it.
It comes after a health watchdog rated Weston-super-Mare’s General Hospital’s emergency care as “inadequate”.
A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report warned “significant improvements” must be made. The hospital’s trust said it will close its A&E unit between 10pm and 8am from 4th July.
Burnham’s MP James Heappey, right, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “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.”
Medical director Dr Peter Collins described it as “a very difficult decision” but said “it is our ability to recruit that is our challenge, not our ability to care”.
He added: “A temporary overnight closure gives us time to work with local GPs, community services, social care colleagues and neighbouring hospitals to strengthen, redesign and rebuild our urgent and emergency care service in north Somerset.”
Following an inspection in March, the CQC identified a lack of support for the emergency department from other departments and a lack of senior doctors, which meant a “critical over-reliance” on locum staff.
They also found problems with the flow of patients in the hospital, leading to overcrowding and patients waiting too long to be admitted.
Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals, described Weston Area Health NHS Trust’s “continuing difficulties” in recruiting senior medical staff as “a matter of concern”.
He added: “We are fully aware that the trust will need to work with commissioners and other neighbouring providers to ensure that it is properly meeting the needs of people who live in north Somerset.”
The Trust said it has experienced “severe challenges” with recruiting and retaining senior doctors to staff the A&E department and “needs to find new ways to address this”.