Fears for future of closed injury unit at hospital

The charity arm of The Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne fear the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) could become a “convenient covid casualty” as it remains temporarily closed.

The MIU at the hospital closed on April 6, during the early weeks of lockdown, a decision taken by Dorset Health Care Trust to manage the impact of covid-19. Residents in Sherborne and the surrounding villages, a catchment area with a population of as many as 22,500, who need medical treatment for minor injuries, which include head and eye injuries, burns and scalds and injuries to the back, shoulder and chest, are being advised to ring the Weymouth Urgent Care Centre for assessment.

But chairman of the Friends of the Yeatman Hospital David Hayes CBE says the real consequence and impact of this decision has been to “increase emergency patients visits to GP practices and to the A&E department at Yeovil District Hospital.”
The closure of the MIU is of “great concern” to West Dorset MP Chris Loder, who sought assurance from the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock in the House of Commons on November 17 that the MIU will re-open as soon as possible.

Mr Hayes, who has engaged in discussions with the Chief Executive of Dorset Healthcare Trust, Mr Loder, Lead of North Dorset Local Primary Care Network Dr Rob Childs, Sherborne Town Council and representatives of the town’s Patient Groups to take concerted action to ensure the MIU is reopened.

Mr Hayes said: “The MIU cannot become a convenient covid casualty – it is an important service, not only to Sherborne but to all surrounding villages. The Yeatman Hospital is West Dorset’s local community hospital, and as such an essential part of the local healthcare infrastructure. The reduction or removal of any of the services has a major impact on the population.”

“In the last 18 months three outpatient clinics have closed. This gradual depletion of the hospital’s operating capacity has a significant and detrimental impact on our community and is done without any apparent stakeholder consultation.”

“The MIU at the Yeatman Hospital was closed on April 6. Its staff were reallocated to maintain MIUs in other DHCT hospitals but primarily in Shaftesbury. The real consequence and impact of this decision has been to increase emergency patients visits to GP practices and to the A&E department at Yeovil District Hospital. Neither of which were the intended outcomes.”

“Over recent weeks we have made substantial inquiries of the DHCT Staff, and through our MP’s approach to the CEO, we have been given assurances of a commitment for the MIU to be reopened, but with no time frame. Furthermore, we have offered our services to the DHCT Communications Team to assist with any announcements but have received no response.”

“We would urge a greater spirit of cooperation and transparency in the decision- making process, to enable us to provide clear guidance to our communities in order to avoid anxiety and scepticism over DHCT’s intentions.”

Chair of Apple Patients Participation Group (PPG) in Sherborne, Bruce Duncan said: “The nearest MIU is Shaftesbury, with an appointment, where a drive for an injured patient may not be possible. The local GP surgeries have more patients to treat because there is no accessible minor injuries unit and there is no doubt some patients may get no treatment at all.”

A spokesperson for Chris Loder said: “Chris has already stated that the continued closure of the Yeatman Hospital’s MIU in Sherborne has been of great concern to him. Despite frequent communications that he has had with senior executives, it remains difficult to get a commitment as to when the MIU will re-open.”

“Matt Hancock, who previously met with Chris at the Yeatman Hospital at the end of last year, has agreed to meet with him again to make progress on this. Chris is also keeping fully in touch on this with the Friends of the Yeatman Hospital and Sherborne Town Council.”

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