A north-east hospital’s minor injury unit (MIU) will close at night, despite concerns from the local community it could impact on patient care and medical services.
The Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) has been carrying out reviews of MIUs across Aberdeenshire since March last year.
And at yesterday’s meeting of the Integration Joint Board (IBJ), members agreed to move forward with changes to the Banff MIU at Chalmers Hospital – which include closing the unit during night-time hours.
They said the decision would safeguard the future of the service into the future and ensure high quality healthcare in the north-east.
Board members also said they were required to ensure adequate training and protection for staff at Chalmers.
A timetable for the reduction in operating hours has yet to be announced but the changes are expected to come into effect fairly swiftly.
Final opening times have also yet to be agreed, but a report prepared for IJB members argued that the vast majority of patients use the MIU between the hours of 8am and 6pm and that the move would reduce pressures on nurses working alone on night shifts.
Local campaigners who fought to keep the facility open 24/7 have argued the loss of late-night services will create additional pressure on ambulance crews and pose increased risks for people in need of urgent medical attention.
Mark Findlater, of the Banff and District Safety Group, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.
He said: “We represent quite a large part of the community of Banff, Macduff and District and 100% of the people who talked to us wanted to continue with the status quo and for the MIU to remain completely open.
“We are going to have to think about what we’re going to do next.”
Peter Johnston of the Friends of Chalmers Hospital group said he shared Mr Findlater’s disappointment and added: “It’s inevitable that if this service is withdrawn for even part of the 24-hour cycle, then pressures on Dr Gray’s and ARI are bound to increase, because they just won’t have Chalmers to turn to.”
Rhona Atkinson, chairwoman of the IJB, said: “Discussion at today’s meeting of the IJB has been robust and I would like to thank the team behind the review and in particular the members of the Banff Local Implementation Group, which included senior staff from the unit, for all their hard work.
“The recommendations we discussed and agreed today will help ensure the sustainability of the service into the future and will also help to enhance the service that we provide at the times when we know there is the highest demand.”
Councillor Anne Stirling, vice-chairwoman of the board added: “The MIU at Banff is a service cherished by the local population and that has been clear through the review and at the public events which we held.
“It has also become clear that we need to ensure that the nurses who deliver the service are fully supported and appropriately trained, and that we can no longer ask them to work alone in the unit, never knowing what could come through the doors at all hours of the night.”
The board also agreed that further communication will be carried out with local communities across Aberdeenshire to ensure residents know exactly what MIUs provide.
Officers will also report back to the IJB in the future with an update on how the opening hours changes have impacted services.