top of page
  • Writer's pictureDan Heley

Staff at Weston Hospital allege patient & staff safety being put at risk

Updated: Jan 6

Correction (10.15hrs - 05/01/2021) Incorrect information was inadvertently published yesterday that the hospital is now closed to non-Covid patients. This statement was made in error. The hospital is open but over the past few days is the hospital has admitted COVID-positive patients to Weston and admitted COVID negative patients elsewhere to help ease pressures on Weston General Hospital. This is a temporary measure which will be regularly reviewed.

Weston General Hospital is for a second time, alleged to be failing to protect patients from contracting COVID-19 after they have been admitted to the hospital, according to staff who have spoken exclusively to Weston Independent News on the condition of anonymity.

Staff said "that the hospital currently has around 80 patients who have tested positive for the virus and we only have 2 wards left open to non-covid patients. The standard practice is to test every patient that comes into the hospital prior to them being admitted to a ward, with the result coming back in 2hrs and those that test positive are being transferred to hospitals in Bristol unless they are so unwell they need to be placed straight onto a COVID ward here in Weston"

Staff said that "this means that many of the patients who are testing positive are doing so during weekly checks that occur across all wards, and those that are, are then being moved to a COVID ward within the hospital. The problem is that because the hospital is understaffed, porters and cleaners are not dedicated to one ward, so they are working between COVID and non COVID wards which is what is causing the virus to spread"

One nurse said "staff don't feel safe as a result, management aren't communicating with staff about the issue and PPE is still only basic. Staff who are on a non COVID ward only have a mask to wear and the only addition for those on a COVID ward is a gloves and an apron which is optional"

The nurse also said "last week we had a situation on a ward I was working on where there were 5 patients on the ward, 2 of them during the weekly COVID checks tested positive, and we couldn't understand how they could have contracted it as they haven't been visited by anyone outside the hospital. The only answer is that it's down to staff moving between wards that is causing this to happen"

A senior nurse at the hospital said "another reason for why COVID is spreading amongst patients who had previously tested negative is because the hospital is so understaffed we're relying heavily on bank staff, who are on zero hour contracts and are being placed on one ward one day, and another the next. Consultants at the hospital are also moving between wards on their rounds which collectively is undoubtedly causing the spread internally in the hospital"

The senior nurse continues; "we're at the point now where we're struggling to cover all the services the hospital should be offering. Many staff are off sick and the support that management are offering just isn't good enough. When a member of staff died during the first wave of the pandemic all we were given was a number to call, there was no emotional or psychological support for what had happened or for what we were having to confront in terms of the severity of the situation amongst patients"

A nurse also said "the hospital is at full capacity, we're having to wait to discharge patients before we have space for others and that's taking into account the fact were utilising parts of the hospital we wouldn't ordinarily use to house patients such as the ward where day case patients would normally be put. We're heading back towards having to shut the hospital if the numbers continue to rise as we simply won't have the capacity for more patients"

Staff said that understaffing at the hospital was not only resulting in the need for staff to be deployed across multiple wards, but was also having a detrimental effect on patient safety.

One staff member said "generally speaking the staff to patient ratio on a ward is 1 nurse and an assistant to every 6 patients, but at the moment some wards are operating with just 1 nurse to every 8-10 patients"

Other staff reported that "the mood is really low, morale is low. We need hope and support from management and people just don't feel as though their getting that."

A nurse at the hospital also said that "it feels like we don't have support of the public anymore, that during the first wave of the virus the public got behind us and helped carry us through, but that now the public don't understand how bad things are, that it's still going on and COVID is still here"

One staff member said "we fear we will end up becoming a full blown COVID hospital, there are already many wards full when there was only 1 in September. Staff are fearful of catching it and giving it to their family".

This damning assessment from staff at the hospital comes almost 2 week since an independent report that was commissioned by University Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital in Weston-super-Mare found that the virus spread earlier in the year within the hospital was due to "different data systems being used making it less easy to chart trends and emerging issues" around the internal spread of the virus.

The trust's own internal investigation which was published in September said 31 inpatients in the hospital between 5th May and 24th May had died, having contracted COVID-19 there. Of those, 18 could have died as a direct result of catching the virus, for which the trust said it was "deeply sorry".

In a statement to Weston Independent News, Dr William Oldfield, medical director at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust said: “Weston General Hospital is under significant pressure, and we are caring for a high number of patients with COVID-19. We have taken appropriate action to maintain the safety of our patients and staff.

“We have a robust coronavirus testing programme in place for patients and staff to identify cases quickly, with appropriate measures taken by clinical teams as required in line with our infection prevention and control guidance. We are keeping the situation under constant review.

“In addition, we are working with our partners across health and social care to help to ease the pressure on the hospital. We assess and treat all patients on the grounds of clinical need and patient safety. Over the weekend we have admitted COVID-positive patients to Weston and admitted COVIDnegative patients elsewhere to help ease pressures on Weston General Hospital. This is a temporary measure which will be regularly reviewed.

“Weston General is open, and we would encourage anyone who has an appointment to please attend as planned, and remember to protect themselves and others by following the national ‘Hands. Face. Space.’ guidance. “The safety of our patients and staff continues to be our main priority and I’d like to reassure patients and families that the Trust has followed and continues to follow appropriate national guidance including that for COVID-19 testing, zoning patients and the correct use of Personal Protective Equipment."

“Across the Trust we test every patient on admission and we are also routinely testing and swabbing every inpatient frequently so we are monitoring their status and can take action if required. “Our staff are going to extraordinary lengths to care for our patients and each other during these exceptionally challenging times, there are a number of wellbeing services available to staff, including access to 24/7 counselling, and we encourage staff to raise any concerns they may have, and we have processes in place to enable them to do this either in confidence, directly with their line manager or via a number of other routes.”

Lucy Muchina, South West Director of the Royal College of Nursing said; “We are aware that members across the region are becoming increasingly concerned about infection rates and we are raising these concerns with employers on their behalf. We urge any RCN member who is worried about infection control practice or their employer’s policies for PPE usage to contact us through RCN Direct on 0345 7726100. It is unacceptable that nursing staff feel vulnerable and unprotected whilst working through this pandemic and we are here to offer support and guidance.”

Cllr Ciaran Cronnelly, Labour Group Health Spokesperson on North Somerset Council said; “Following the May outbreak the hospital identified that staffing rotas needed to be reviewed to prevent, as far as possible, unnecessary staff movement between positive and negative covid wards to help maintain patient safety. To hear that this may still be happening is deeply concerning and I’ll be urgently seeking clarification from the hospital.”

North Somerset Council Labour Group Leader Cllr Catherine Gibbons said: “During the pandemic our health workers have continued to go above and beyond to care for us and one of the best ways we can show our appreciation is to follow the Public Health guidance to keep ourselves and others safe . With the vaccination roll-out we can see the end of the fight but we must not get complacent now.”



Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page