Trust announces temporary overnight closure of A&E from 4 July

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has today published its report following an inspection of Weston General Hospital in February and March 2017.  The Trust was given an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’, the same as its previous rating in 2015.

However, one area of continued concern – emergency and urgent care services - was rated ‘Inadequate’.  The service has historic and ongoing issues, particularly around recruiting and retaining permanent doctors within the team. The CQC wants to see significant changes.

James Rimmer, Chief Executive of Weston Area Health NHS Trust, welcomed the report and fully accepted its findings.  He said:

“Whilst we are pleased the CQC has recognised we have made some significant improvements since our last inspection, due to the efforts of our hard-working staff, we know we still have some way to go to make sure all our patients get the best possible care across all services all of the time.

“Since the follow-up inspection in March, we have already delivered improvements. This includes revising our systems for admitting and discharging patients; improving the flow of patients through the hospital; working with local GPs so they can refer and admit patients directly to the hospital for urgent care without having to come through A&E; and partnering with a neighbouring Trust to share consultant expertise, clinical supervision and training.

“However, we agree with the CQC that our urgent and emergency care services are not sustainable in the way they are currently organised.  Our A&E has been fragile for several years. We have severe challenges with recruiting and retaining senior doctors to staff our A&E department 24 hours and day, seven days a week, and now need to find new ways to address this.”

“We are at risk of falling short of providing safe levels of staffing in our A&E department at night.  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.  That isn’t sustainable for such a highly specialist clinical team and poses an intractable problem for the Trust.

“Today we are announcing that we will be temporarily closing our A&E at Weston overnight from Tuesday 4 July 2017, between 10pm and 8am, because we can’t provide safe staffing levels overnight from then.  This is not an easy decision to make, but patient safety is our number one priority.”

The department will remain fully open in the day between 8am and 10pm, the times when about 80% of people who use Weston’s A&E service attend.  All other Weston hospital services are unaffected. 

Dr Peter Collins, Medical Director at the Trust, said: “This is a very difficult decision but the right one. The risk of not filling a shift with specialist doctors, vital to safe patient care, is unacceptably high. This is also not just an issue about the number of staff on duty at any one time; we need a permanent team to lead and develop our urgent and emergency care service to make it the best it can be for our patients.

“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.

“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.

“Neighbouring hospitals, out-of-hours GPs and the ambulance service will work with our staff to make sure patients can still get seen and treated for urgent and emergency care between the hours of 10pm and 8pm once this temporary overnight closure begins on 4 July.”

During the closure:

  • 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.

    This is a temporary measure.  No permanent changes to A&E services or any other services in the hospital will be made without a full public consultation. 

    North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (the body responsible for planning and buying services for local people) is already engaging with staff, patients, local people and communities in the area to work up ideas for a longer-term sustainable solution to the challenges faced. Please see for further details about how to get involved.

    Your questions answered

    We understand many of you will have questions and concerns around the planned temporary overnight closure of our Emergency Department from the 4th July. HERE, we have included a Q&A which we hope provides some reassurances and addresses any questions you might have.