Residents of a north-east town have hit out at possible changes to their local hospital’s minor injury unit – with a safety group claiming it could cost lives.
The Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership has been reviewing the future of Chalmers Hospital in Banff along with eight other Minor Injury Units (MIU) across the region.
The outcome of this review will not be made public until a consultation event is held next week which will show the preferred option for the hospital.
Representatives have stressed that the review will not lead to a closure of the facility but residents in Banff fear operating hours could be slashed.
Banff and District Safety Group chairman Richard Menard has submitted a letter to hospital chiefs laying out his concerns for the unit which serves people from Macduff, Gamrie, Portsoy, Aberchirder and surrounding smaller villages as well as Banff.
The letter states: “We feel that both the closure or reduction of working hours of the unit in Banff will put an unbearable strain on an already overstretched Banff ambulance service especially if other units in the area are to be closed or have their working hours reduced and patients have to be taken further afield to either Dr Gray’s in Elgin or ARI in Aberdeen.
“Too many services are being taken away from smaller towns and rural areas and moved to larger towns and cities and not always for the best reasons or results.”
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In the Banff and Macduff community council meeting this week Mr Menard and his wife Lynn broached the subject with the other members.
She said: “Reducing the hours has a knock on effect on everything and they’ve got it down as a minor injury unit but it’s an urgent care unit – if it’s not there we would have to go further to an A&E.”
One major concern relates to fears ambulance crews would be forced to travel longer distances to take patients to facilities further away if the unit is closed in Banff – leaving other residents without emergency care.
Mr Menard added: “Chalmers is the hub of health for this area and any way you look at it, it’s going to take emergency services further away and put lives at risk – its going to end up costing lives.”
The AHSCP held public consultation events last year and generally found MIUs were held in “high regard” within the communities.
The steering group found the demand in Banff peaked during daytime hours, reducing in the evening with minimal use at night.
An AHSCP spokeswoman said: “The local implementation group has been looking at all the data around attendances and peak times and are now ready to present what they feel is the best, safest and most sustainable option for the future of the MIU at Chalmers Hospital.”
The preferred option of the AHSCP will be unveiled on Wednesday at the Harvest Centre from 3pm to 7pm.