Protest over Weston General's overnight A&E closure

image captionThe Save Weston A&E group held a protest on Saturday

Health campaigners say the temporary overnight closure of an A&E department is putting lives at risk.

Weston General Hospital, which serves more than 200,000 people, has been closed between 22:00 and 08:00 GMT since July.

A campaign group held a protest against the decision in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, on Saturday.

The hospital's trust said the closure was necessary until it can guarantee safe levels of staffing overnight.

Helen Thornton, from the Save Weston A&E group, said patients needing emergency assistance are instead travelling to Bristol or Taunton.

"Although the hospital leadership team is recruiting doctors and consultants to resource a 24 hour A&E, they cannot give a date for reopening and have not communicated an update for several weeks," she added.

"If this continues now we're heading into winter we have grave concerns that bad weather could impact on journey times and put lives at risk."

She said it was vital the unit was reopened as "a matter of urgency".

image sourceBARBERS
image captionThe overnight closure was put in place at Weston General Hospital in July

Protesters, who want to know why staff can't be borrowed from other institutions to plug the gap, have planned a further demonstration outside Weston General on Tuesday.

Weston Area Health NHS Trust said it is reviewing the impact of the temporary closure on a daily basis.

A spokesman said: "Patients continue to receive safe care and the numbers of patients affected by the overnight temporary closure continue to be in line with expectations.

"The temporary overnight closure was put in place because we have severe challenges with recruiting and retaining the number of senior doctors we need to safely run the service at night.

"Overnight services will remain closed until we are confident that safe and sustainable staffing levels are in place throughout the night."

The spokesman said the trust was doing "all we can" to try to recruit the permanent doctors needed.

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