The NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire has published proposals to reform urgent and emergency care services at Weston General Hospital, as well as setting out a longer term vision for its future as a thriving hospital at the heart of the community.
The proposals respond to long-standing challenges, including difficulties in recruiting sufficient numbers of clinical staff, which led to the temporary overnight closure of A&E in July 2017. Expert doctors, health professionals and others have been designing and assessing a range of options over the last 18 months, all with the aim of ensuring that services are high-quality and fit for the future. They have now recommended a ‘preferred option’ that if agreed next week, will proceed to public consultation later in February.
Under the proposal, which our Governing Body will consider next week, the hospital would continue to provide round-the-clock access to urgent and emergency care for everyone in the area. Weston’s A&E would operate between 8am and 10pm seven days per week, boosted by a strengthened GP out-of-hours service and more direct admissions onto hospital wards overnight via GP referral.
The most serious emergency cases – for example, head injuries and heart attacks – would continue to be transferred to specialist centres at neighbouring hospitals in Bristol and Taunton, as has always been the case. The proposals also feature changes to the levels of emergency surgery and critical care that can be provided at Weston General.
Alongside immediate changes to urgent and emergency care, the wider vision for change includes plans to develop Weston General Hospital as a centre of excellence for frailty. An innovative new service would provide joined-up care for older people, reducing unnecessarily lengthy stays in hospital and improving health outcomes.
An extended service for acutely unwell children is also proposed, alongside more planned surgery and increased access to specialist outpatient services, such as cancer treatment. A new crisis recovery service would be located in the centre of Weston, providing much needed support for people with mental health needs.
Dr Martin Jones, a local GP and Medical Director at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:
We need a genuine 21st Century service that meets the needs of our patients now and in the future, and we believe our proposals will achieve that. The preferred option we are putting forward has been shaped by doctors, health and care professionals and the public. It will allow us to deliver 24-hour urgent and emergency care in the most effective way, with a boosted out-of-hours service and greater opportunity for GPs to admit patients directly onto wards overnight.
We know that staff at the hospital do a fantastic job every day, yet Weston Hospital is unable to meet national clinical quality standards across all its services. We also have a shortage of specialist staff available for some services and it’s vital we address this, and put the hospital on a sustainable footing. Our longer term vision is for a local health and care service that is integrated, responsive and fully reflective of local people’s needs. For example, we have more young families moving to the area, so it’s important that we increase the provision of specialist children’s urgent care.
We also have a large number of people over the age of 70 in the area, and so we are developing a new frailty service that will ensure older people get the right care from mixed teams of doctors, nurses, therapists and social care workers – both in the hospital, but increasingly in the community.
Dr Peter Collins, Medical Director at Weston Area Health Trust, said:
This is an exciting opportunity to transform services at the hospital, for the benefit of all our patients. These proposals, developed by clinicians, would allow us to continue to deliver the care people need most often at Weston General. The vast majority of current services and treatments would continue to be provided at the hospital at the times of day they are most in demand.
We need to be able to attract and retain key staff to work here, and the way to do that is by becoming a centre of excellence. It’s also crucial that we provide local people and our staff with greater clarity and certainty about the future. I hope that staff and the public will take the opportunity to share their views during the consultation period.
Our Governing Body will consider the recommendation at its February meeting. If approved for consultation, this would begin later in February, with a range of ways for the public to have their say. We confirmed last week that we will be working closely with Weston Hospital consultants on their suggested model, and that further engagement with the clinicians would be arranged throughout any consultation period.