This week, interim changes will take place to the opening hours at some minor injuries units (MIUs) in Somerset, to provide greater consistency in services for local people and communities. The changes will be in place for approximately six months.
MIUs in Burnham-on-Sea, Chard and Shepton Mallet have recently been affected by a number of frequent, short notice and unplanned closures due to ongoing workforce shortages.
Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (FT), which runs the minor injuries service across the county, has made the decision to consolidate teams and restrict opening hours at the units in Burnham-on-Sea, Chard and Shepton Mallet to ensure a safe and consistent service can be maintained across the county.
Dr Matthew Hayman, deputy chief medical officer at Somerset FT, said: “Over the past few weeks, we have experienced increasing difficulties in staffing our MIUs which has led to frequent, unplanned changes to opening times in some areas.
“A combination of staff sickness, relocation, retirement, maternity leave and taking up jobs elsewhere in the NHS means that 10 of our 30 posts for the most senior clinicians (emergency nurse practitioners) within our MIUs, have been vacant since the end of September – which has an impact on our ability to provide safe services without consolidating our teams and restricting the opening hours at some units.
“We want to make sure that we can provide a consistent and safe service for patients and their families. We have therefore consolidated our workforce and taken the difficult decision to temporarily restrict the opening hours of some units so that we can run all of them safely.
“This means that we are reducing the MIU operating hours at Burnham-on-Sea, Shepton Mallet and Chard community hospitals for an interim period of six months. All the other MIUs at Bridgwater, Frome, Minehead and Glastonbury are planned to operate as normal, 7 days week between 8am and 9pm.
“We are doing everything we can to provide consistent services at all our locations across the county and to recruit and train the clinicians we need to expand the opening times at the MIUs in Burnham-on-Sea, Chard and Shepton Mallet.”
Revised opening hours
- Burnham-on-Sea will now open Monday – Friday between 10am – 6pm (no weekend service).
- Chard will open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday between 8am and 9pm (closing on Wednesdays and Fridays when there is no X-ray service)
- Shepton Mallet will operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 8am and 4pm – please try to use the unit before 2:30pm (closing on Tuesday, Thursday and at the weekend)
- It is intended that all the other MIUs at Bridgwater, Minehead, Frome and Glastonbury will be open as normal, 8am – 9pm, 7 days a week.
Dr Bernie Marden, chief medical officer at NHS Somerset, said: “We recognise that any changes in health and care provision can cause concern and appreciate that the amended opening hours across the MIUs in Burnham, Chard and Shepton may have an impact on some patients.
“It is vital that healthcare services in our communities not only have safe and appropriate staffing levels but also can provide consistent access to ensure patients can be cared for and treated accordingly. The adjustment to the opening times of these MIUs ensures that this is the case. Ensuring that the provision of this service can continue in the most appropriate way for patients.
“The NHS in Somerset works closely together to constantly review and mitigate challenges within the healthcare system to ensure our focus remains on the needs of our patients and we have worked closely with colleagues in Somerset FT to support these changes in the best way possible. GP practices are also working together as primary care networks to provide evening and Saturday appointments to meet the healthcare needs of their communities. Patients can access these appointments through their usual GP surgery.”
“For people with minor illnesses, including hay fever, coughs and colds, skin infections as well as aches and pains, they can speak to their local pharmacist or use our NHS Somerset GP Community Pharmacy Consultation Service which offers patients a same-day appointment for over 40 minor conditions at a community pharmacist of their choice, when they are offered an appointment for this service by their surgery.
“And for those needing out of hours support and advice, people should continue to contact 111 either online at 111.nhs.uk or by calling NHS 111 which helps to ensure people get the right medical advice or treatment more quickly. If needed, they will be able to arrange for individuals to be seen safely by the service that best meets their healthcare needs.”
Dr Hayman added: “We are really grateful for the support of our patients, colleagues and health and care partners. We are continuing to work extremely hard, together with NHS Somerset and other partners, to resolve the staffing problems through a range of recruitment and training initiatives.
“The situation will be reviewed on a monthly basis during this time, and it is hoped that the workforce position will improve by Spring 2023 – as a result of further recruitment, newly qualifying ENPs and colleagues returning to work from maternity leave.”
Further information can be found by visiting: Minor injury units (MIUs) – Minor Injury Units (MIUs) (somersetft.nhs.uk)