Councillors vow to ‘fight to the
COUNCILLORS have promised to fight the downgrading of Weston General Hospital “to the bitter end”.
The accident and emergency department stopped operating overnight in July 2017 and clinical commissioning group leaders are about to launch a consultation on whether to open it round-the-clock 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 Tues- day’s 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 anything 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.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said: “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 roundthe-clock operation of the accident and emergency department.
This would see a service, led by consultants, at the hospital all the time.
Council leader Nigel Ashton