All hospitals have got to become Foundation Trusts, the idea being to have greater independence and more accountability to local people, but Weston, one of the smallest Health Trusts in the country, is too small to stand alone.
It is also £5 million in debt. The old PCT used to cover this debt, but the new Clinical Commissioning Group cannot do this.
Weston has been underfunded ever since I have been here in the 80s.
In the 1990s I was chair of a Locality Commissioning Group, and our first act as a Commissioning Group was to investigate the level of funding for our area.
We found that our funding was well down on the Bristol area average.
The Health Authority sent an accountant in to look at the figures in more detail.
His conclusion was that the area, including Weston Hospital, was about £3 million a year short of our full whack.
Three million pounds a year may not sound much to the man behind the Health Authority desk, but year after year after year at the patient’s bedside, it mounts up.
So Weston has a problem, and the Tory idea is that it should be sold to a private concern who will make a profit from it. This logic of this line of reasoning is not immediately apparent to the innocent bystander.
I am now on the Steering Committee of the local group who wish to resist sale to a private health corporation.
First off, we have to orient ourselves.
Weston General Hospital (WGH from now on) has between 249 and 320 beds. Why the range? I guess because 320 is the maximum and 249 is the amount actually in current use.
It serves a population of 212,000 locals, but in the summer we get 2.5-3.3 million day trippers, and 375,000 staying visitors. If they all stay one or two weeks, that adds 7-14,000 spread over yr, which means we are serving around 222,000 people.
So the WGH bed ratio is between 1.12 and 1.5 beds per 1000 population.
We find here that the UK average bed ratio is 3 beds per 1000 population.
Do you see what is is yet? WGH is underfunded and overloaded. No wonder it is in trouble.
It needs a thorough review of its funding and workload. It needs its debt written off, and a better financial deal. It needs many other reforms, across the board.
The last thing that WGH needs is to be sold off to a private healthcare corporation, either as a whole or in part. It needs to be linked up once again with the Bristol hospitals, but this time with adequate funding.