Politicians have staged crunch talks with health bosses amid growing fears about the “potential for disaster” should medical units operate under reduced hours.
Minor injury units (MIU) across the region are under review by the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership – including departments in Turriff Cottage Hospital and Chalmers Hospital in Banff.
At a public consultation earlier this month, the recommendation by the local group examining Chalmers Hospital was to cut overnight hours but have a service from 8am until the evening.
The proposal caused major concerns for residents, who turned out in their masses at the event to make their views known.
Local Conservative politicians have now sat down with health chiefs to relay the public concerns.
North East MSP Peter Chapman said he emerged from the recent meeting worried that a partial downgrading of the unit “could be the thin end of the wedge” when it comes to changes at the site.
He said: “I think the public have demonstrated their support for maintaining the status quo with these units.
“I want to protect local services.”
Banff and Buchan MP, David Duguid, added: “It is clear that locals do not want to see any downgrading of the local minor injury units in Turriff or Banff – which are two of the most used in Aberdeenshire.”
Janet Anderson, a retired GP who worked in Banff for more than two decades and is now chairwoman of the Friends of Chalmers Hospital charity, believes the facility should be open around the clock.
She said: “I think there should be a 24-hour service seven days a week as the staff there are trained in minor injuries as well as other things, and I feel there’s potential for disaster if it isn’t open.
“Really improving the service would help more, as Chalmers can do the initial help for a patient with a minor injury before moving them into Aberdeen for further treatment.”
Four options were presented for the future of Chalmers Hospital.
They included leaving the MIU as it is, closing it completely, operating between 8am and 6pm seven days a week, or operating from 8am to late evening, with the closure time to be agreed with the emergency services.
Research carried out by the Scottish Conservatives found that the units have been well-used over the past five years, with 15,197 patients attending Turriff and 21,790 in Banff.
A spokeswoman from the health body said: “The response we have received from the public has been fantastic. The next step in our process is to take a report to the Integration Joint Board.”