A merger which will see Bristol’s biggest hospital trust join forces with another trust in Weston-super-Mare is just waiting for government approval.
The arrangement, which has been in the works since May 2017, would see University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the BRI and Children’s Hospital, join forces with Weston Area Health NHS Trust.
The merger is expected to come into force from Wednesday, April 1 this year. It is currently waiting to be signed-off by the Secretary of State.
All individual hospital and clinic names will remain the same, but the new trust will be called the University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW).
Chief executive of the new trust, Robert Woolley, who was previously the chief executive of UHB, said there would be huge benefits in bringing the best of the two trusts together.
Speaking to Bristol Live he said: “It will mean a greater range of services and better access for people in Weston and North Somerset to local services and specialised services.
“At the minute there are 8,000 North Somerset patients who have to come to Bristol for ophthalmology to the eye hospital, they will be able to be seen at Weston as well as older people needing cataract operations.
“The merger will mean great benefits to patients but also huge benefits for staff as well.
“We will have a bigger workforce and greater opportunities to learn and develop and go into new roles and grow their careers.
“We want to keep staff with us and grow our own staff working with Weston College and other education providers.”
It is hoped providing staff at the hospitals with a chance to move around the new bigger trust will help with some of the staffing issues Weston has faced in the past.
Through the merger it is also hoped patients in North Somerset can benefit from some of the ground-breaking clinical trials taking place in Bristol.
Mr Woolley said that there were many things the two hospitals could learn from each other.
He added: “There is a very highly regarded training programme in the BRI emergency department (ED) that Weston staff will have access to and equally staff in Bristol will be able to go and learn about other ways of providing ambulatory [outpatient] care.”
What it means for Weston Hospital’s A&E
However, he said the merger and potential ED training that came with it did not mean Weston Hospital’s A&E would be reopened overnight.
In September last year the clinical commissioning group (CCG) announced the temporary overnight closure of the A&E department would be made permanent.
But Mr Woolley said there would be an evaluation of the overnight closure 12 months after the merger of the trusts at the request of North Somerset Council.
The new trust will boast a workforce of over 13,000 and will provide accessible local healthcare and world-class specialised services, improved digital technology and stronger academic links with leading education providers.
Mr Woolley added: “The merger will help bring stability to Weston General Hospital, so that it remains at the heart of the community, providing services that meet the needs of its local people.
“We will also have a real opportunity to create an even better experience for our patients – ensuring people from North Somerset and surrounding areas will be able to be seen and treated in local hospitals, and improving access to specialist services in Bristol and Weston through better use of an expanded workforce, facilities and estates.”