PERFORMANCE: A South West trust has been rated ‘inadequate’ for safety by the Care Quality Commission.

The regulator flagged up concerns about safety at Weston Area Health Trust after it found shortages of senior doctors and inadequate monitoring of patients in the accident and emergency department.

Weston General Hospital

The CQC uncovered ‘serious concerns’ about safety at Weston General Hospital

The trust, which is the smallest in England, has declared itself unviable in its current form, and it is due to be taken over by Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust.

Weston Area Health was rated as “requires improvement” overall, following the CQC’s inspection in May and June. It requires improvement for being effective, responsive and well led, but its caring was rated “good”.

The CQC said it uncovered “serious concerns” about safety in emergency care and medical care at Weston General Hospital, with the latter service rated inadequate.

During periods when there were a high number of people in A&E, patients were put at risk because they were not always assessed or prioritised in a timely manner, the inspection report said.

There were a high number of vacancies for consultant posts throughout the hospital, which resulted in “unsustainable rotas”.

Some junior doctors told inspectors that at times they felt pressured to undertake tasks without supervision “for which they felt ill prepared” and not competent to carry out.

While most nursing shifts seemed to be covered and nursing leadership was judged to be strong, the CQC raised concerns about insufficient numbers caring for high dependency patients on the Harptree ward.

The regulator asked the trust to take immediate action on the ward and to improve its assessment of patients in the emergency department. It said it had seen evidence from the trust that it had addressed both concerns.

Sir Mike Richards, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said he recognised that Weston Area Health’s size presented its “own challenges” and that “uncertainty over the trust’s future [had been] unsettling”.

Weston Area Health chief executive James Rimmer said the trust was “extremely proud that our services have been rated ‘good’ for caring across the board”.

He added: “We fully take on board the CQCs findings. Weston requires improvement.

“Our staff truly care about their patients, and I’m confident they’ll deliver.”