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Huntly's anger at overnight Minor Injury Unit scrapping

By Lewis McBlane

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COMMUNITY figures were outraged by last week’s decision to scrap overnight services at Huntly’s Minor Injury Unit (MIU).

The Minor Injury Unit in Huntly is set to have its overnight offering scrapped...Pictures: Daniel Forsyth
The Minor Injury Unit in Huntly is set to have its overnight offering scrapped...Pictures: Daniel Forsyth

Charity Friends of Jubilee Hospital, where the MIU is based, launched a campaign against the closure and have put up posters across the town.

Readers attacked the decision on social media, warning the move could leave patients trapped at home in “unbearable agony.”

A union that represents nurses at the MIU said the cut, while understandable due to low patient numbers, signalled that rural healthcare will increasingly be in the firing line.

Councillor Gwyneth Petrie (Huntly, Strathbogie and Howe of Alford) said the scrapping was part of a cost-cutting push that would negatively impact Huntly.

At a meeting last week, councillors and NHS Grampian staff voted to permanently end out-of-hours care for minor injuries in Huntly, Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

The move, to ease budget pressures, will save £716,000 this year and £1 million in subsequent years.

After phoning 111, patients seen at the MIU receive care for non-urgent injuries like cuts, wounds, minor burns, scalds, sprains and less-serious broken bones, NHS Grampian said.

Led by nurses, the Huntly MIU works alongside the out-of-hours GMED GP service – which is set to continue.

Those who, previously, would have been helped at the MIU between 7pm and 7am will have to come back for an appointment the next day.

From November to January, authorities recorded patient numbers at Huntly’s MIU.

The survey found that the unit, on 17 nights in December, saw no patients present with a minor injury.

And, on its busiest night that month, only three people attended with minor injuries.

Between November and January, there were at least 600 more appointments available than the number used each month.

The total attending the MIU with minor injuries went from a low of 15 to a high of 21 across the time period.

However, chairwoman of Friends of Jubilee Hospital Fiona Murray argued the policy would only save a small amount of money compared to NHS Grampian’s shortfall, and “they are barking up the wrong tree.”

“I think it will probably cause a bit of fear,” she said.

“People won’t be quite as keen to go further afield, so they will say: ‘Oh I’ll just leave it and try again in the morning.’

“It could be a complete and total disaster.

“All it needs is for one person to be at death’s door to be helped at Huntly and that would just go to show that the service is necessary.”

Reader Jean Stevenson shared her difficult family experience of being unable to access the MIU.

“If you break a leg or arm, you will have to stay home in unbearable agony and be told to take paracetamol then go to the local Minor Injury Unit in the morning,” she said.

“This has already happened to a member of my family when they phoned the NHS on 111 and were told that Aberdeen was chocka and would not take any more.

“Luckily, they asked about Elgin and were finally given a space there.”

Joint-branch secretary of UNISON Grampian Health, Liz Grant said: “The NHS is facing big cuts, and closing these overnight minor injury units is part of that.

“In truth, these were not well used, but closing them is part of a trend towards rural patients having to travel long distances to fewer, bigger hospitals.

“We need to invest in staff and buildings to protect a quality local service in rural areas.”

MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Karen Adam MSP (SNP), criticised Banff and Buchan Coast MP David Duguid (Conservative) for sharing his concern over the closure, because Conservative councillors voted for the changes.

This was in response Mr Duguid described the decision as a “tragic consequence” of SNP cuts and said he had asked for a meeting with the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

"It's so disappointing that every Tory and Liberal Democrat councillor voted to close Minor Injury Units overnight. These services are vital and do much more than treat cuts, burns and simple fractures,” Ms Adam said.

"Not only have the Tories and Lib Dems undervalued the role of our healthcare workers at the Minor Injuries Units, but they are also putting the health of those in our communities at risk.

"For the Tory MP, David Duguid, to blame the SNP for the closures when SNP councillors were the only ones to vote against the closures is just astonishing hypocrisy. The Tories cannot vote for closures in one breath and condemn the closures in another. They need to be honest with the public and, more importantly, they need to reverse this terrible decision."

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