A petition has been launched to call for the Turriff minor injuries unit to reopen and for better ambulance provisions in the area.
The Aberdeenshire unit has been closed since the start of lockdown in early 2020.
The petition, which was launched by Ardmiddle WRI has since been backed by David Duguid, MP for Banff and Buchan, and Douglas Lumsden, a north-east MSP.
It comes soon after Health Secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed there was no confirmed date for the unit reopening.
Both representatives have stressed their discontent at the lack of clarity and expressed their hopes that the petition would emphasise the seriousness of the situation.
‘No doubt that Turriff is being overlooked’
Mr Duguid described the situation as “completely unacceptable” and urged locals to sign the petition.
“I welcome efforts by Ardmiddle WRI, and other local groups, to raise concerns about the lack of MIU and poor ambulance cover in Turriff,” he said.
“There is absolutely no doubt that Turriff is being overlooked for health provision forcing residents to make long journeys to already crowded A&E departments.
“The situation is completely unacceptable which is why I encourage everyone to sign this petition to highlight how strong these concerns are within our community.
“I would welcome any input from residents on how they’ve been impacted so I can put these to NHS Grampian and Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.”
‘We continue to explore options’
In response to the petition, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership said that the minor injuries system is in the process of changing across Scotland as a whole.
There are currently a limited number of appointments available at some existing minor injuries units in Aberdeenshire, including the one in Banff, but these services are also undergoing change.
Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership stressed the first port of call for anyone with a minor injury should be calling NHS 24, and not attending at a unit.
Pam Milliken, chief officer for the partnership, explained: “We are offering a limited number of minor injury appointments, accessed by calling NHS 24 on 111, from Chalmers Hospital in Banff.
“We continue to explore options and look at ways we can offer, better, more sustainable, community services across our area, including Turriff, and we will share our plans with the Aberdeenshire Integration Joint Board.”
‘We’ve been engaging with the local community’
Addressing the comments on “poor” ambulance cover in the area, the Scottish Ambulance Service said they have programmes ongoing which they hope will help rectify the situation.
An ambulance service spokeswoman said: “Our ongoing demand and capacity programme will result in an increase in ambulance provision of 463 additional ambulance hours per week within the Grampian region, which will greatly benefit patient care and staff welfare.
“In addition, community first responders schemes also support the ambulance service and we continually look for opportunities to increase local schemes. We’ve also been engaging with the local community and councillors to discuss ambulance service provision in the area.”
Taking the matter to parliament
Mr Lumsden wrote to the health secretary raising his concerns.
In response, Mr Yousaf said staffing issues were a central reason why the minor injuries unit remains closed.
He wrote to Mr Lunsden: “At this point, the board is not in a position to commit to timescales due to current staffing difficulties however I will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide you with an update when available.”
Mr Yousaf also suggested locals use other minor injuries units if they need to, including the one at Peterhead, which would mean a 60-mile round trip.
North-east MSP Mr Lumsden was dissatisfied with the response, and has backed the petition in the hopes that it will make a difference to the Scottish Government’s approach.
“The needs of patients in Turriff are being pushed to the side and I hope this petition will emphasise the strong feeling towards this,” he said.
“It’s shocking that there is still no reopening date for Turriff two years on and this must change sooner rather than later.
“The MIU provides a lifeline service to people in and around the town which is why it’s imperative services resume again and ambulance cover is improved.”
The petition can be signed in Costcutters in Turriff, or copies can be sent online by messaging the Turriff Community Council Facebook page.