Weston A&E closure: Hospital trusts reveal merger plan
Plans have been outlined to merge a hospital trust which shut its A&E overnight because of staff shortages with a neighbouring trust.
Weston General Hospital A&E has been closed between 22:00 and 08:00 since July last year.
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHBT) and Weston Area Health NHS Trust (WAHT) said a merger could take place in spring 2019.
MP John Penrose said it was a "big step" towards solving the closure.
The potential merger builds on a formal partnership between the two trusts, implemented in May 2017.
Robert Woolley, chief executive of UHBT, said: "Our shared goal remains to ensure hospital-based services in Bristol and North Somerset provide high-quality care to patients and families which are clinically and financially sustainable.
"We believe that a merger with Weston Area Health NHS Trust could help achieve this goal."
James Rimmer, chief executive of WAHT, added: "We believe we could make more rapid progress and improve our long-term sustainability by formally merging with UHBT."
Weston General Hospital, which serves more than 200,000 people, has been closed overnight since July 2017 because it could not guarantee safe levels of staffing overnight.
People with serious and life-threatening emergencies in Weston were told to dial 999 and ambulances would take them to Bristol or Taunton.
The Save Weston A&E campaign group has organised protests outside the hospital, claiming the closure is putting lives at risk.
Weston-super-Mare MP Mr Penrose hailed the move as way of "making hiring staff for Weston Hospital far, far easier".
"It's a big step towards solving the overnight closure of Weston's A&E department, and securing the long-term future of our hospital."
An appraisal process to "assess the clinical and financial benefits of a merger" will now take place, the trusts added.