A&E overnight closure ‘preferred option’

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The permanent overnight closure of a West of England hospital emergency department is the preferred option of local NHS managers.

Weston General Hospital A&E unit has been shut overnight for 18 months because it could not guarantee safe levels of staffing.

The area’s clinical commissioning group now wants the closure to be permanent, saying it will improve patient safety.

It is to consider the proposals at a meeting next week. Under the plans, serious emergencies would continue to be transferred to neighbouring hospitals.

A lack of specialist staff could also see intensive care provision at the hospital halved, with patients treated elsewhere.

Weston General’s A&E has been closed between 22:00 and 08:00 since July 2017.

People with serious and life-threatening emergencies are told to dial 999 and ambulances will take them to Bristol or Taunton – about 20 and 28 miles away respectively.

The hospital’s consultants’ body has written a letter of concern saying it fears that if acute services “collapse”, other services could drop below a critical mass necessary for the hospital to function properly.

If agreed, the “preferred option” will proceed to public consultation later in February.

Michele Benjamin, a specialist Medical Negligence lawyer said: “Staffing levels within NHS hospitals is an ever-growing concern for all patients being admitted into A&E departments requiring the appropriate care as soon as possible. The obvious risks associated with the closure of an A&E department is deep concerning especially for those facing life threatening illnesses or injuries which require medical attention imminently.”

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