• Weston Area Health Trust’s emergency department has been closed overnight since June 2017
  • A&E to be closed between 10pm and 8am

The “temporary” overnight closure of one of England’s smallest accident and emergency departments is set to become permanent, following a unanimous vote by commissioners.

Weston Area Health Trust’s emergency department has been closed overnight since June 2017, after the services were rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission. The regulator said staff shortages, lack of cross-departmental support and a growing demand for services had created an unsafe environment.

The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group voted on Tuesday to make the overnight closure permanent as part of a wider initiative to bolster services.

The “Healthy Weston” programme would see GPs and other healthcare professionals refer more patients directly to hospital. Commissioners hope this will bypass the need for an overnight emergency department.

Weston Hospital’s A&E department remain closed from 10pm to 8am.

Patients in need of emergency surgery from 8pm to 8am will be stabilised at Weston before being transferred to specialist units, while children’s urgent care provision will be extended from five to seven days a week under the plans.

Martin Jones, medical director at BNSSG CCG, said the plans were “a big step forward” for the hospital. He added: “The hospital will be much better able to achieve national clinical quality standards with these changes in place, as well as attract and retain the staff it needs.”

But the move has been controversial. Only a third of locals said they supported making the overnight closure permanent during a public consultation, even though eight in 10 respondents agreed changes were needed to the delivery of services.

North Somerset Council’s health overview and scrutiny panel is expected to decide whether or not to recommend referring the decision to central government. An extraordinary meeting on the matter will take place within 10 days, according to local media.

Weston Area Health Trust is set to merge with University Hospital Bristol Foundation Trust in April 2020. Commissioners argued the move will support the upcoming trust merger in a governing body report.

The report also stated keeping the A&E department closed overnight will save an estimated £3.8m.

NHS Improvement chair Dido Harding’s husband John Penrose is the Conservative MP for Weston. HSJ approached his office for comment.