WGH's Financial Background and bed ratio

Weston General Hospital is in financial difficulty.

The Coalition Government has decreed that 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 for many decades.

In the 1990s GPs formed 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.

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.

The hospital authorities claim that the bed ratio is 1.99, by leaving out the visitors. Even so, this is still well below the UK average.

We find here from World Bank statistics  that the UK average bed ratio is 3 beds per 1000 population, and the numbers are getting worse year on year.
The UK also has a worse bed ratio than Lithuania.

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.


  1. That's not quite the full story.

    About a year ago WGH was actually announcing that it would soon be debt free http://www.thewestonmercury.co.uk/news/hospital_set_to_become_debt_free_1_1566603 and it would probably have remained debt free had it not been for one government policy.

    That was the move to providing more care in the community care and trying to stop patients having to visit their local hospital. So while patients will get treatment at their local GP surgery and have to be referred to hospital less, it does mean that poor old WGH will lose £4.8 million of their future funding and hence why it will remain unsustainable.

    The question is how will private healthcare corporations fill this shortfall and still make a profit for their shareholders?

    The only way I can see this shortfall being met is if it once again links up with the Bristol Hospitals which are already running services with in WGH.

  2. Yes thanks for that additional point Chris. Yes, Bristol is the obvious and logical partner for WGH, but also it needs to be put on a better financial footing when it finally does team up with a bigger NHS Trust.

    There is always more. The NHS is a huge system of interrelated parts. The supply side of the equation is neglected, the question of what makes people ill, and what makes people seek help, and why some people do not seek help in good time, while others seek help for things that will sort themselves out naturally, and why some doctors send their patients to hospital a lot and some not so much. All of this has a bearing on what happens to WGH. But the key thing is that it must be partnered with an NHS Trust, not with a private corporation.

  3. Dear Nick Wood

    Many thanks for your email, which tells me that the WGH bed ratio is 1.99 beds per 1000 population. I note the various measures that are being made to reduce demand on hospital beds.

    However, it remains that the WGH bed ratio is one third less than the UK average, which is in itself less than the bed ratio in comparable countries.

    I note also that you do not seem to have included in your calculations the matter of holiday makers, which adds up to 14,000 to the Weston population.

    Adding to this the chronic underfunding of WGH (which was according to calculations made for the then Locality Commissioning group in the 1990s was running at £3million per year at that time), Weston is at an enormous disadvantage, and its staff are to be congratulated at the way they are coping in face of these odds.

    May I ask what representations are being made to the Department of Health and NHS Executive to draw attention to these problems in order to get a better deal for the population of Weston General Hospital and its staff?

    Thank you
    Kind regards
    Dr Richard Lawson

  4. The above is in reply to an email from the Chief Executive of WAHT