As the forced closure of Weston hospital’s A&E department comes into effect for the first time tonight (Tuesday 4 July 2017), the Trust that operates the facility still has no plan to address the staffing shortage that triggered the Care Quality Commission ruling to bring in overnight closures.
Trade union and health activists are staging a rally for fair NHS funding outside Weston Hospital today to coincide with a meeting of the hospital board.
Senior figures in the Trust have been unable to answer questions posed by public service union UNISON regarding a plan to solve the closure, the impact on other departments at Weston or the stresses put on A&Es at Musgrove, Southmead and the BRI from patients being sent to these hospitals instead. Only one group of staff – nurses – have been consulted about the changes at Weston hospital.
Staffing problems at Weston have been known to management for years, but the Trust has yet to assemble the business plan that could eventually end the night closure of A&E and make good on promises that this is a short term measure only.
UNISON organiser in Weston Christina Cook said:
“Every night this A&E department stays closed is a risk to people in Weston. It’s at least thirty miles to the nearest alternatives in Bristol or Taunton, leaving sick people a long way from help and putting more strain on health staff at other hospitals.
“I’m concerned that behind the lack of answers from the Trust is a Government plan to further downgrade Weston Hospital. Are they serious about re-opening this facility? A similar closure in Lincolnshire has been extended to over a year. If that happens here, related departments like the Intensive Care Unit will be affected too.
“Only last Wednesday Tory MPs voted against lifting the public sector pay cap, meaning hospital staff face yet another year of squeezed family finances. No wonder Weston is struggling to recruit when the NHS faces the three-headed monster of falling wages, fewer overseas staff coming to the UK, and the total removal of the Nurse Bursary that is leaving healthcare students in colossal debt.”