North-east medical chiefs have pledged that community health facilities in rural areas will not be closed, following a public consultation.
Reporting to yesterday’s Aberdeenshire Integration Joint Board about a six-month review of Minor Injury Units (MIUs) in the region, Angie Wood, location manager for the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership insisted the review was not about potential closures.
Instead, she said it was about “public engagement” and education to tell more people about the units and the services they can provide – so they can make use of all resources for “self-care” in their own communities.
The region has nine units in Aboyne, Banff, Huntly, Insch, Inverurie, Stonehaven, Turriff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.
Speaking after the committee, Mrs Wood said she hoped a pilot study in Insch would help alleviate residents’ fears.
She added: “Insch and Inverurie have been highlighted as risk areas – but I would like to say they are not unsafe.
“We have seen from the consultation that out of hours’ activity levels of people using the MIUs in these two places could give rise to potential patient safety risk.
“We want to get the message out about the MIUs and what they are there for.”
Committee members agreed with the steering group recommendations that, “as a matter of urgency”, the units in Insch and Inverurie should be re-designed and would receive plans “in due course”.
Banchory councillor Anne Ross claimed the consultation had caused “genuine fear” among residents that some units would close.
She said: “The fear of closure was real – that was apparent. People were frightened that they might lose their first point of contact in an emergency.
“The Aboyne unit, for example, covers a vast area between Braemar and Strathdon, a large rural area where the unit is the first point of contact in an emergency due to geography as it’s easier to get to than the ARI.”
The committee heard that demand for MIU interventions peaks in daytime hours and there is a reduction in the evening with “very few” presentations overnight apart from in Peterhead and Fraserburgh where demand was high.
One recommendation agreed was to improve the signage around the units to “accurately describe” the services offered – which includes treatment for cuts and minor burns, sprains and broken bones and fractures.