It’s been twelve long months since Weston hospital’s A&E had to close at night. The problem isn’t money; they’ve already got the budget to run 24/7. It’s staff, because they can’t hire enough specially-qualified people to work safely during the small hours.
To be fair, the hospital and ambulance service have worked wonders to make sure anyone who needs emergency treatment at 3am (which isn’t too many of us, it turns out) is taken promptly to Bristol or Taunton. No-one particularly wants to travel any further than we have to, but we’d all want our families to be treated somewhere that’s safely staffed above all.
So when will the problem be solved? How long until the doors reopen?
As you can imagine, it’s a question I ask pretty much every day. It’s got so bad that Government Health Ministers in Westminster have started to flinch when they see me coming.
The good news is that everyone thinks 24/7 emergency treatment ought to stay at Weston. So it’s not a case of ‘if’ but ‘how’ and ‘when’.
The crucial questions are when the merger between Weston and BRI will be complete. A bigger and more varied hospital should find it easier to hire and keep specialist A&E staff than Weston on its own.
And when the new plan for Weston hospital’s services will be officially signed off. At the moment it would mean handling more patients in future, rather than less, for everything from hip and knee replacements to cataract operations and cancer treatment.
It’s a pretty good answer, and would mean the hospital’s future was secure for the first time in decades.
The only question left is ‘when’. For most of us, including me, it can’t happen soon enough.