All change on the wards as Weston General Hospital heads into a busy winter

Like every other hospital in the UK winter is the busiest time at Weston General Hospital and Trust.

The start of January was no exception as the NHS across the country experienced high pressure and demand as many sick patients needed our care.


During the winter hospitals see higher numbers of patients (with respiratory and chronic health conditions, slips and falls, the elderly and children). Our wards are often affected by Norovirus that’s bought in from the community and our staff are afflicted with colds, flu and winter bugs just like everyone else.


Because of the higher number of medical patients needing hospital beds, during the winter surgical procedures are at greater risk of being cancelled. In January this year the national NHS recommended that hospitals could cancel or postpone non-urgent operations and appointments until 31 January 2018 to make way for emergency patients. This is always a last option as our patients need surgery to improve their health and quality of life.

So this year, alongside our normal winter planning, we’ve made some extra changes to our wards and A&E to help us cope better with the winter pressures and improve care for our patients.


Ward changes  at Weston General Hospital


  • Our surgery team has ‘lent’ nine beds to our medical team so that we can care for  more medical patients in more appropriate wards over winter (this arrangement will be reviewed 31 March 2018)
  • We’ve expanded the admission criteria for our Ambulatory Emergency Care (AEC) unit to include surgical patients as well as medical ones (AEC is a short stay unit that gives treatment to patients who don’t need to be in a hospital bed and/or stay overnight). Previously AEC only took medical patients and surgical patients were admitted as inpatients into a hospital bed.
  • GPs can now send their patients directly to AEC without them needing to go through A&E first. This means that those acute/emergency patients who truly need A&E services get faster treatment and care.
  • We’ve created a new acute medical admissions ward - Sandford - especially for gastroenterology and acute medical patients.
  • We’ve increased the numbers of beds on our current surgical wards (Hutton and Steepholm) to take patients who would previously have been seen in our Surgical Assessment Unit (SAU) which has been stepped down for winter.
  • Berrow ward has now become a dedicated specialist ward for respiratory patients
  • We’ve invested in and refurbished our A&E reception and created a new Primary Care patient pathway. This means patients entering the Emergency Department are immediately seen and assessed, and are then directed to the most relevant health professional according to their needs (which could be a senior nurse or doctor).


Speaking about the changes Phil Walmsley Director of Operations Weston Area Health NHS Trust said:


“January has been very tough for the NHS but we’ve put many different things in place to help us manage.


“While patient demand is rising (1) we’d like to thank the Weston public and Mercury readers for supporting your local hospital and the NHS and especially for your patience while we treat the most fragile and sickest patients first.


“These ward changes in particular will help us cope better with the higher numbers of medical patients we’ll be seeing until the end of March” Phil continued.


“We’ve seen improvements as a result already. Taking September as a comparison we cancelled 57% less surgery and operations in September 2017 compared to September the year before (2016). Even taking into consideration the difficult conditions at the start of the year, we’re seeing a good overall improvement on patient care.


“A mixed surgical and medical AEC is taking pressure off our surgical wards and A&E so they can focus on the patients who need them most. And making Berrow a specialist respiratory ward means we’re able to give better care to our patients with chronic health conditions who suffer most from the cold and wet weather.


“Patients will be able to come into a new refurbished A&E and a new Sandford ward – although we hope you won’t need either of these facilities!


“We’ll be monitoring the changes closely to measure their effectiveness and make sure we’re seeing the improvements to patient care. We’ll also be conducting a final review in April to assess if there are any other changes we need to make.


“Like all change it’s been wholly dependent on our wonderful staff and we couldn’t have made these changes without them. I’d like to thank them for all their hard work and continued effort over the winter months to give excellent care to our patients.