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Banff Minor Injury Unit report draws councillor fury

By Grant Milne

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Banff's Minor Injury Unit had their opening hours cut.
Banff's Minor Injury Unit had their opening hours cut.

BANFF and Buchan councillors have lambasted a report into the night time closure of the Minor Injury Unit (MIU) at Chalmers Hospital.

Members declared themselves deeply unhappy with the lack of transparency from the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, after opening hours for the Banff facility were cut.

The previously 24/7 service is now only open from 8am to 7pm – despite figures released last month showing a rise in annual use.

A petition from local community groups along with a public engagement process had failed to reverse the decision, which was first announced in September, with concerns raised due to Banff's distance from MIU's in Aberdeen and Elgin, the lack of transport links to those areas, and the 6pm closure of Turriff's MIU.

Councillor Ross Cassie had asked the committee to forward an emergency motion at an earlier meeting (November 26), asking for a report from the Integration Joint Board (IJB) officials for the reasons behind the overnight closure.

And Mr Cassie was one of the fiercest critics of the report that was presented to members at Tuesday’s meeting in Fraserburgh, citing an absence of information given within the document and also the lack of consultation with the committee during the process.

He said: “I have found the Health and Social Care Partnership to be evasive, obstructive and avoiding scrutiny at each and every corner. That report merely tells us what has happened – and we know what has happened – it is how it happened that needs to be addressed.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed in the content of the report. It is a waste of a paper as it says nothing to address the notice of motion.

“Looking at the report, there is something there I wasn’t aware of…’the IJB can consult the relevant committees within Aberdeenshire Council prior to reaching a final decision but opted not to do so’.

“I did not see that option anywhere within the document that was presented to the IJB in regards to the closure.

“Again, decisions are being taken that affect our communities that we are rightly addressing concerns about but are not being addressed.

“I have a meeting with the IJB chair on February 12 and I will be raising my concerns.”

He later said: “I appreciate there is a review going on but it would appear the Health and Social Care Partnership haven’t a clue what that is going to look like.

“There’s been a lack of transparency which we need going forward. I’ve raised points on countless occasions which have been ignored and must be addressed.”

The Partnership’s (North) manager Mark Simpson replied: “I’m disappointed but not entirely surprised by those comments.

“The substantive point is that the IJB made the decision on either not having all the facts, or having incorrect facts.”

The report acknowledged that no staff cuts or budget savings have followed as a result of the daytime-only hours for the MIU.

Councillor Glen Reynolds stated that he wished to see clarification of all the measures taken and data collected during the allocated six-month review process that would monitor the impact of the changes.

However Mr Simpson confessed: “The IJB haven’t given specific terms of reference for that review, but in my mind we will need staff feedback, patient feedback and to liaise with our partners including the Scottish Ambulance Service, and look at any instances of clinical concern.”

Councillor Reynolds retorted: “I find that extraordinary that halfway through a review process, the team of officers has not been given any terms of remit.

“Why on earth, that halfway through a review process, is nobody being consulted on what needs to be done? Why has nobody asked the IJB for the mechanisms that will enable a determination to be made when we are three months into the review period?”

Mr Simpson stated that he was not in a position to answer that query.

Councillor John Cox added: “The Ambulance Service is being redirected all the time as the facility is not open.

“I hope there is total transparency in the consequence of that and the impact it is having on our communities.

“We need answers and the community need answers.”

Meanwhile councillor Charles Buchan believed it was “shocking” how the Area Committee had been treated.

“We are continually exhorted to encourage partnership working and we find out that the service hides behind [legalistic arguments in the report] saying it is nothing to do with you”, he said.

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