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  1. ITV Report

Weston General Hospital to close A&E at night

Weston General Hospital has decided to close its A&E at night. Photo: ITV News

The Chief Executive of Weston General Hospital has announced that the Emergency Department will close overnight from 4 July.

Between 10pm and 8am, the hospital will not admit patients into A&E. James Rimmer has admitted that urgent care at the hospital has been "fragile" for several years.

We have severe challenges with recruiting and retaining senior doctors to staff our A&E department 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and now need to find new ways to address this."

– James Rimmer, Chief Executive Weston General Hospital

The decision to temporarily close the department comes after a damning Care Quality Commission report was published.

During the inspection health watchdog officials found the A&E department in such disarray that they issued a warning notice requiring immediate improvement.

Overall the Trust requires improvement but the urgent and emergency service is rated as inadequate, with CQC inspectors revealing they are "very seriously concerned" about the service.

Now, in light of what senior medical professionals at the hospital describe as unsafe staffing levels overnight, the A&E department will be closed during the evening from the beginning of July.

Mary Cridge Head of Hospital Inspections for the CQC in the South West told ITV West Country that specialists on the inspection visit were surprised to find a corridor in the A&E Department was in almost permanent use to treat patients when the department was busy.

This caused real concerns regarding the safety, privacy and dignity of the patients receiving care there.

Patients referred to the hospital by their GPs were going into A&E, bed meetings were not happening with enough success, leading to issues with overall patient flow and cancelled surgeries.

Our staff have worked incredibly hard to shore-up the department but despite significant efforts we just can’t recruit enough permanent doctors and are very dependent on temporary and locum staff."

– James Rimmer, Chief Executive Weston General Hospital

The Care Quality Commission has advised that recruiting doctors to the emergency department and employing the right mix and grade of permanent staff has to be the long-term solution.

The CQC has ruled that A&E is inadequate. Credit: ITV News

This is a very difficult decision but the right one.

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.

It is our ability to recruit that is our challenge, not our ability to care."

– Dr Peter Collins, Medical Director at the Trust

The NHS in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire region has robust plans in place to respond to any immediate service changes that need to be made, such as this temporary overnight closure.

While 80% of Weston's A&E patients are treated during the day, local residents will undoubtedly be concerned about the decision to close the Emergency Department. Advice if you need emergency care during the closure is:

  • Call non-emergency NHS 111 where you will be directed to the best medical care for you
  • Call 999 for any serious or life-threatening conditions
  • Patients transferred to Bristol or Taunton overnight will be brought back to Weston if appropriate as soon as they are fit enough to continue their treatment and recovery here, normally within 2-3 days.
Weston General Hospital A&E will close overnight from July. Credit: ITV News

The CQC gave the following recommendations to Weston Hospital on how to improve services:

  • To reduce crowding, the trust must review its use of the emergency department as the single point of entry to the hospital for both emergency and expected patients
  • The trust must ensure a specialist senior doctor is available overnight to review patients in the emergency department, so as not to delay admission to wards
  • The trust must ensure the use of the corridor in the emergency department provides an appropriate and safe area for patients to receive care and treatment
  • The trust must work to improve the systems and processes to manage patient flow through the hospital more effectively

If you have further questions about the A&E closure, the Trust haspublished answers on their website.