• Future of small hospital’s accident and emergency to be decided “later next year”, says CCG
  • Weston Area Health Trust’s A&E has been “temporarily” closed overnight since an inadequate CQC rating last June
  • Decision will follow completion of wider consultation on acute services

The fate of one of the NHS’ smallest emergency departments will be decided “later next year”, commissioners announced this month.

Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said the future options for Weston Hospital’s emergency department would be discussed as part of a wider public consultation scheduled to be launched in early 2019.

The unit has been closed overnight since June 2017.

BNSSG CCG medical director Martin Jones said in a statement: “A final decision on the future of A&E services at Weston Hospital, as part of [the Healthy Weston consultation] will not be taken until the public consultation has been completed, and will be some time later next year.”

Dr Jones said they remained on track with the Healthy Weston reconfiguration project timetable, which is due to consult on a wide range of acute service changes in spring 2019.

The consultation follows long-floated plans from University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust to merge with Weston, its smaller neighbouring trust.

The decision to close the unit overnight in June 2017 followed the Care Quality Commission rating the A&E department “inadequate”. It said the hospital often had to keep patients in corridors that were “not a safe environment for emergency care and treatment”.

Difficulties attracting senior doctors, particularly to work overnight; lack of support from other departments; and growing demand also contributed to overcrowding and patients waiting too long, inspectors said.

The trust was forced to become one of a handful of NHS A&Es which closes its A&E overnight.

Grantham and District Hospital, run by United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, began an overnight closure in August 2016. Similar problems attracting staff forced the move.

Weston chief executive James Rimmer said: “The decision to temporarily close Weston’s A&E overnight was made on safety grounds as we couldn’t recruit sufficient numbers of specialist staff to support a 24/7 rota.

“We have made good progress on recruiting more staff although there is more work to be done. We need to make sure our services meet the changing needs of our local population and are clinically and financially sustainable.

“We are working closely with BNSSG CCG and other NHS partners in designing options for the future shape of services, including a long term solution for urgent and emergency care.”

NHS Improvement chair Dido Harding’s husband is the MP for Weston.