Councillors pledge to fight against hospital downgrading
COUNCILLORS have promised to fight the downgrading of Weston General Hospital “to the bitter end”.
The A&E closed overnight in July 2017 and clinical commissioning group leaders are about to launch a consultation on whether to open it 24/7 or 14 hours a day, or to replace it with an emergency centre or an urgent treatment centre.
Public concern at the proposals has been aimed at North Somerset Council but members say the health bosses behind the proposals need to “stand up and be counted”.
Councillor Mike Bell told a full council meeting: “We will fight the downgrading of the hospital to the bitter end.
“The consultation is nothing to do with North Somerset Council, but anythin g to do with the hospital appears to be blamed on the council. It’s the CCG’s consultation.
“This is a really crucial time in the decision-making process. It’s really important that, even if people have done it before, that they engage this time.
“We have been reliant on getting information from CCG management and I’m concerned we don’t get the full picture.
“They should be open and transparent about this. They mustn’t start to keep things behind closed doors.
“If we’re going to stand united and don’t want to see the A&E downgraded, we need to speak with one voice, and send that message to the Government, who hold the purse strings.”
Council leader Nigel Ashton said: “There are problems in that it doesn’t attract enough doctors. That doesn’t mean it has to be downgraded - it could specialise.
“I’ve been to a lot of meetings and I’ve never been filled with absolute conviction they have been giving me all the facts.
“I think they’ve decided how they want - that’s what happens in a consultation. You have any idea of what you want to do.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees added: “I think the NHS is hiding behind its true colours. We keep getting blamed in the newspapers. The CCG needs to stand up and be counted.”
The CCG closed the A&E overnight because the hospital is unable to recruit enough permanent staff to fill a rota to run a safe service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It says it needs to ‘act to ensure Weston General remains a strong, focused hospital at the centre of the community for years to come’.
It will do this by refocusing services so they meet the needs of the population - made up of more older people, more people living with long-term conditions, and more young families - and ensuring people can access urgent and emergency care and high-quality specialist services when they are needed.
The five proposals being put forward include reinstating the 24/7 accident and emergency department. This would see a service, led by consultants, at the hospital 24/7.
Alternatively, it could be a consultant-led A&E operating 14 hours a day - between 8am and 10pm - seven days a week, with night time cases going to other hospitals.
A further suggestion is for a consultant - and GP-led A&E operating again for 14 hours a day.
Or the A&E could be replaced with a GP-led medical emergency centre which would again operate 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another option is to set up a GP-led urgent treatment centre which would open 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
Weston General Hospital provides services to approximately 150,000 people. That is set to grow to 162,000 by 2025.
Dr Martin Jones,clinical director at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, said in a statement: “North Somerset Council is an important partner in the work we are doing to improve all health and care services for local people through the Healthy Weston project.
“Clinicians and directors from the CCG have had a significant number and range of meetings with individual councillors, the health and overview scrutiny panel and MPs about local health services, including the future of Weston Hospital since its overnight closure in the summer of 2017.
“There are more meetings planned with council leaders as we continue our work on proposals for the future of the hospital with local clinicians and other NHS trusts.”
We will fight the downgrading of the hospital to the bitter end
Councillor Mike Bell
Weston General Hospital