MINEHEAD’S MP has urged local people to make their views heard loud and clear at consultations on the future of the minor injuries unit at the town’s community hospital.
Ian Liddell-Grainger says NHS officials need to be left in no doubt of the importance of a 24-hour service in an area where the nearest A&E unit is an hour away and where ambulance crews have recently taken up to two hours to reach casualties.
The unit – the only one in Somerset previously open 24 hours a day – is closing at night for eight weeks because of what the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust says are safety issues: with only a healthcare assistant and a paramedic on duty officials say patients requiring anything more than basic first aid treatment could be dangerously delayed reaching full A and E facilities in Taunton.
But, said Mr Liddell-Grainger, the obvious answer was for the trust to invest in the facility and ensure more highly-qualified staff were on duty at night.
“This seems to be the option they are trying to skirt round,” he said.
Argument full of holes
“Frankly I find their arguments for partial closure of the unit to be full of holes. And none of them take account of our unique situation in West Somerset where many homes are well over an hour’s journey from Taunton and where the ambulance service is stretched so thinly that delays – even in daytime – are now reaching shocking levels.”
Trust officials are holding consultations with local people about their use of the MIU service, with sessions held at the hospital every Thursday until September 9 from 10am to 4pm.
Mr Liddell-Grainger urged everyone who was concerned about the future of the unit to attend and make their views clear.
“It’s not a matter of statistics – how many people per week or month currently use the unit at night. It’s a question of the unit remaining open as a reassurance to local people that when they might need help in an emergency it’s going to be available on their doorstep, not more than an hour away in Taunton – even if they can get an ambulance.”