The permanent overnight closure of Weston Hospital’s emergency department has been approved.

Weston General Hospital A&E unit — which provides the nearest facilities for Burnham-On-Sea residents — has been shut overnight since July 2017 because it could not guarantee safe levels of staffing.

The clinical commissioning group (CCG) said the decision will improve patient safety.

But in July, a consultation found 69% of residents did not support the overnight closure continuing.

In February there was a protest amid fears the hospital was being downgraded.

The decision to make the night closure permanent means urgent care admissions will be made directly on to wards overnight by GPs and paramedics, bypassing A&E.

The plans were supported by senior doctors across the region, national regulators and the boards of both Weston Area Health NHS Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Martin Jones, Medical Director at the CCG claimed the decision will “stabilise urgent care” and ensure the hospital is able to “expand the services such as frailty support, paediatrics and planned care”.

Additional recommendations which were also approved include making specialist children’s urgent care provision available seven days a week instead of five, and extending the mid-week opening hours at the Seashore Centre to match those of A&E.

Patients needing emergency surgery overnight will be stabilised at Weston and transferred to neighbouring hospitals for treatment.

Critical care will continue to be provided at Weston Hospital for people needing single organ support.

Those needing more specialist care for two or more organs will be transferred to Bristol for treatment, then brought back to Weston to continue their recovery locally.

The A&E department will continue to operate between 8am and 10pm seven days a week.