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Huntly mum: ‘Don’t scrap 24-hour MIU which helped my son (3)’


By Lewis McBlane

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SCRAPPING overnight care at Huntly’s Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) is “an absolute joke”, said a local mum whose son (3) was one of its last out-of-hours patients.

River Crocket was one of the final out-of-hours patients at Huntly's MIU, as his mum appeals to reverse the overnight closure.
River Crocket was one of the final out-of-hours patients at Huntly's MIU, as his mum appeals to reverse the overnight closure.

The previously 24-hour service, as of yesterday (Monday, July 1), is now open only between 7am and 7pm.

Campaigners have warned that the closure, agreed in March by the Aberdeenshire Integration Joint Board, could lead to "catastrophic consequences", with thousands having signed online and paper petitions.

However, the Aberdeenshire IJB argued the decision was based on “a strong foundation of data collected over many months”.

A three-month survey last winter found that more than 80 per cent of out-of-hours appointments in Huntly went unutilised each month. The highest nightly total of minor injury patients at the unit's busiest time of year, the report claimed, was three.

However, Kayleigh Nicholls said the overnight MIU was a massive help when her three-year-old was admitted last Wednesday (June 26), and prevented a long and stressful drive to A&E in Elgin or Aberdeen — or an upsetting wait for an appointment the next day.

River Crocket (3) was one of the last patients to be cared for at night by Huntly's Minor Injury Unit.
River Crocket (3) was one of the last patients to be cared for at night by Huntly's Minor Injury Unit.

The Huntly mum of three had put her children to bed, when son River Crocket came into her bedroom with a sore nose at around 9pm.

Kayleigh noticed a bead stuck in his nose and, after unsuccessfully trying to remove the object by covering the unblocked nostril and blowing into River's mouth, she decided her son needed medical help.

MIUs are not a "walk-in" service, NHS Grampian have said. People should call the non-emergency 111 number, with suitable out-of-hours callers to be offered appointments for when the MIU reopens after 7am the next day.

However, Kayleigh said she has previously faced up to 45-minute waits for an answer from the phone line.

“I was going to phone 111, but at that point he was already getting quite distressed,” Kayleigh said.

“So we jumped in the car and went to the Minor Injury Unit.

“The nurse put him down on the bed, one person held his head and I held his hand.

“And the nurse in charge got tweezers and wheeched it out. We were in and out in 20 minutes."

Mum Kayleigh Nicholls said the Minor Injury Unit was invaluable in helping her son River Crocket (3) quickly and efficiently.
Mum Kayleigh Nicholls said the Minor Injury Unit was invaluable in helping her son River Crocket (3) quickly and efficiently.

After arriving home, she took to social media to share her positive experience in a local Facebook group.

Her post, liked by more than 150 people, described the overnight closure as "an absolute joke".

If River's accident had happened a week later, Kayleigh said, she would have been forced to drive him “very frantically” to Elgin’s Dr Gray’s Hospital — being too worried about the bead entering her son’s throat to wait for a morning MIU appointment.

She would also have had to wake up her two other children and take them to hospital too, due to a lack of childcare.

"Even when we got to Elgin, we wouldn’t have been seen for at least three hours." she added.

“River would have had to miss nursery and I would have missed work."

Kayleigh, who works at Huntly charity Gordon Rural Action, said the reduced hours would be even harder for families in poverty and those without cars.

The Minor Injury Unit at Huntly's Jubilee Hospital is set to be scrapped. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
The Minor Injury Unit at Huntly's Jubilee Hospital is set to be scrapped. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

“I see it in my job, there are families who are in real poverty all the time,” she said.

“How are they going to get to Elgin or Aberdeen?”

Being unable to get to an A&E department, she added, will cause more people to call 999 and request ambulances for "something potentially minor", despite the service already being under unprecedented strain.

Kayleigh said the overnight closure had sparked fear and concern in the community, along with a sense there had been "no consultation".

“People are feeling angry and scared, including vulnerable and elderly people that need this service," she said.

“It’s a very short sighted decision and it is going to have a knock-on effect on the community and other services. I can see there being a catastrophic impact.

“They need to listen to the community rather than brushing it under the carpet.”

Kayleigh and her husband moved to Huntly from Elgin, to be closer to family, and the town's 24-hour MIU was a key reason behind this choice.

She added: 'We said to ourselves: ‘Huntly is just as good as Elgin.’

“But now, it’s obviously not. It is going to put people off who want to move here.”

However, Kayleigh also thanked campaigners for fighting the change and praised the passion of Huntly's “fantastic” community.

The Minor Injury Unit at Huntly's Jubilee Hospital is set to be scrapped. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
The Minor Injury Unit at Huntly's Jubilee Hospital is set to be scrapped. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

A Friends of Jubilee Hospital petition against the scrapping has now received 8200 signatures online and 3000 paper signatures, according to retired Huntly GP Dr David Easton.

He also argued that the closure breaches decision-making guidelines, and has “shown a contemptuous disregard for the safety and wishes of the people of rural Aberdeenshire”.

“To state that there will be no impact on Dr Gray's and ARI A&E departments, or ambulance usage, is totally unrealistic. There will be an increase in presentations at the ‘only place available’ for those who feel they need help," he added.

“The current situation in A&E is appalling and staff are under immense pressure constantly, so any increase in workload is untenable.

“We cannot merely accept this decision meekly, we must continue to fight for the provision of safe, local healthcare service provision.”

John Tomlinson, chairman of Aberdeenshire's Integration Joint Board (IJB), said: “We know that change can be unsettling and this decision, to alter the opening hours of the three MIUs, has not been taken lightly; it rests on a strong foundation of data collected over many months – which shows a low number of minor injury presentations overnight.

“The initial feedback from practitioners and the public has been helpful for officers, allowing us to describe the different functions of our minor injury service and the role of the out of hours primary care service (GMED).

“The feedback we have received so far about urgent and emergency care is being shared with services.”


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