By Binzy Reynolds:
Over a hundred and thirty people flocked to the Parkhouse Centre last night, forgoing St Valentine’s Day celebrations, to hear reasons behind the temporary night-time closure of the Minor Injuries Unit, (MIU), at Stratton Hospital and to seek a way to re-open this unit at the earliest opportunity.
A panel from NHS Cornwall consisted of:
Nicky Chopak (Chair and local councillor for Poundstock), Dr Tamsyn Anderson, (GP from Newquay, System Clinical Leader and Director of Primary Care of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and co-author of the Stratton MIU Temporary Night time Closure Update), Anita Cornelious, (Area Director, Adult Community Services and co-author of Temporary Night Time Closure Update), Sue Buse, (NHS Stratton Hospital) and Jackie Pendleton, (Chief Officer NHS Kernow).
Citing ongoing recruitment as ‘challenging,’ Dr Anderson opened the main address stating she was hopeful of keeping the unit open 24/7 but the recent resignation of a key staff member forced the temporary closure. NHS figures state Stratton MIU is well used with 9436 people using the facility during 2018. Of those, 600 visited between the hours of 10pm and 8am and there were 102 days where no-one attended. Dr Anderson reiterated there are no staff available for 24 hour cover, saying people don’t want to work at night. The positions have been constantly advertised and recruiting qualified staff is a problem. Dr Anderson then appealed to the audience asking if anyone knew of any available qualified night time staff.
Speaking on the problems of rapid response, Dr Anderson stated although the nurses may have dealt with some 999 problems in the past, they are not trained to do so. Stratton MIU should not be used as a drop-off point for emergency cases, or a place to call an emergency ambulance. She claimed an ambulance will get to you faster if you call one from your home rather than use Stratton MIU. Cornwall definitely needs a more robust response but it is not a Minor Injury Unit problem. MIU nurses become extremely stressed having to deal with emergency situations. Dr Anderson reiterated the need for ongoing recruitment to re-open the MIU overnight but no-one is available. The NHS will continue to face these challenges. Sadly there was no opportunity for public consultation over the pre-Christmas temporary closure.
Questions from the floor were varied. In reply, the panel continually blamed poor recruitment and lack of qualified nurses as the reason for the temporary closure, claiming no-one wants to work at the MIU.
Reasons for poor recruitment were defined as not wanting to work at night, fear of lone working and people pulling out at the last moment. Apparently three candidates were interviewed last week and two refused the available positions. the one who accepted will need six months of training. Problems with training were identified as any non-qualified applicant would need to travel to Plymouth for six months to become qualified. As Plymouth is so distant, it puts people off applying.
It was suggested Stratton MIU be upgraded to an Urgent Care Centre but the panel stated the data collected does not support this claim.
Bude Mayor, Bob Willingham, commented on the strength of feeling in the hall tonight, stating the two medical centres in the area, Neetside and Stratton, needed to collaborate, despite being controlled by separate counties. An extra 1200 homes must be built in Bude by 2030 and there are no immediate plans for another medical centre. He asked how the council could help and offered key worker housing as part of the solution, an offer which was accepted by Dr Anderson.
Further questions were asked with the same answers being repeated by various members of the panel. Recruitment is poor because no-one wants to work at the MIU on their own at night. The meeting closed with many questions remaining unanswered and many audience members doubting the authenticity of information provided by the panel.
Why were no efforts made to recruit replacements for the five nurses due to retire? It must have been obvious this sort of problem would follow. NHS Kernow appears to be reactive not proactive, unless they plan on the closure being permanent.
Only three vacancies are currently showing on the NHS ‘Jobs – Search’ website for the EX23 postcode; A Staff Nurse for Stratton Hospital, a Community Nurse and a Phlebotomist. Dr Anderson’s claim that recruitment is ‘challenging’ may well be true if the posts required are not being appropriately advertised by the NHS.
If you look on this website, https://www.jobs.nhs.uk/xi/search_vacancy/ it would appear vacancies for Stratton MIU are not being advertised, therefore the MIU will surely eventually close permanently due to staff shortages?