Somerset health bosses say there are no plans to close more MIU’s
Written by Bridgwater Mercury on July 18, 2021
HEALTH bosses say they have no plans for any further closures of Somerset’s minor injuries units (MIUs).
The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which allocates the county’s health resources, announced in late-January that Minehead MIU would be closed overnight for up for four months.
The CCG has now confirmed it has no plans for any further temporary closures, stating it has sufficient staff to provide a safe service at all its sites.
It has also revealed that plans to reopen Chard Community Hospital’s inpatient ward remain “under review” – four years after the facility shut its doors.
MIUs are run by emergency nurse practitioners and provide emergency care for patients with injuries which are not life-threatening, such as sprains, broken bones and eye infections.
The facilities are based out of community hospitals and are designed to take pressure off both GP surgeries and the A&E departments at Somerset’s acute hospitals.
The CCG currently funds seven MIUs across the county – in Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Frome, Glastonbury, Minehead and Shepton Mallet.
Before the recent announcement, Minehead was the only such facility which would accept patients after 9pm, seeing 105,000 patients over the course of an average year.
Dr Matt Hayman, deputy medical director for the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (which runs the county’s MIUs), stated in late-June: “We have concerns about the safety of the service, which is why we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close the unit overnight for four months.
“We need to take the time to review the service and work with partners and patient and public representatives to look at how we address those safety concerns, quantify and meet the overnight needs of the local area within our available resources, and propose a way forward that is both safe and operationally robust.
“We will monitor the impact of the overnight closure monthly and report back on our progress to look at options for providing an alternative, safe and operationally robust service.”
The trust has stated categorically that Minehead’s case is an exceptional one, and there are no plans afoot for any further closures.
A spokesman said: “We do not currently have any vacancies for medical staff at our community hospitals or minor injuries units.
“We have no plans to change the day time opening hours of any minor injuries unit in Somerset.
“The Minehead service remains open from 8am to 9pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our advice to people is that if you have a minor injury or you’re unwell, contact 111 first by going online at https://111.nhs.uk or calling 111.”
In late-2017, the trust took the controversial decision to close inpatient wards at community hospitals in Chard, Shepton Mallet and Dene Barton near Taunton, citing a shortage of staff.
Nearly four years on, Chard’s inpatient ward shows no signs of being reopened, with the trust stating the issue is still “under review”.
A spokesman said: “The temporary closure in 2017 meant we were able to consolidate our staff onto fewer community hospital sites, so we could continue to provide a safe, more sustainable service.
“It became more difficult during the pandemic, both in terms of recruitment and the safety of our patients, to ensure our community hospital inpatient wards could operate safely and sustainably while managing patients with and without covid-19.
“We are keeping this position under review and continue to work with our colleagues at the CCG as they develop their future plans for community hospitals in the county.”
The government is seeking to roll out urgent treatment centres across the country – larger hubs which are run and staffed by GPs, with longer opening hours and a wider range of services.
The CCG stated in January 2020 that it would “not be practical or affordable” to replace all the MIUs with these centres – but no final decision has been taken on how many could be replaced.
Both the CCG and the trust have stated the recruitment picture is improving in Somerset – with those interesting in becoming nurses being urged to look into new training being offered locally.
A joint spokesman said: “Over the past few years we have seen an increased focus on various recruitment initiatives from our healthcare partners to attract, recruit and retain healthcare colleagues in Somerset, supporting the delivery of high quality healthcare services across the county.
“Despite national challenges in the recruitment of nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and other specialist workers, we have seen an improving picture across the NHS in Somerset.
Recruitment will continue to be an ongoing area of focus to fill existing and new vacancies, as healthcare services develop and adapt to the changing needs of our local population, and we would like to encourage more people to consider careers in the NHS in both direct care and the many support services we provide.
“One of the exciting new initiatives launched this week is a series of new nursing degree and apprenticeships being provided in Somerset for the first time.
“This means that people in the county who are interested in training to become a nurse can now study at a local university centre – the University Centre Somerset (part of Bridgwater and Taunton College).
“We are confident that the provision of local degree courses will encourage so many more people in Somerset to consider a career in nursing, which will be of huge benefit to the county’s health and social care organisations, by helping us to address our nursing vacancies and having our own local supply of registered nurses.”
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