STROUD General Hospital's 24-hour minor injuries unit has been forced to close dozens of times due to staffing pressures during the last five months.

Between November 2015 and March this year the unit in Trinity Road shut its doors 67 times overnight due to a lack of nurses – the most in the county.

This week alone the unit has been closed from 10pm and 8am on a couple of occasions - leaving patients having to travel to Cirencester or Gloucester for treatment.

The figures come as Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust prepares a fresh review into the opening hours of the county’s minor injuries and illness units.

Stroud General’s unit is one of seven in Gloucestershire that will have their opening hours looked at by health bosses.

This renewed scrutiny comes after the Care Quality Commission expressed concerns about the safety of the units in Gloucestershire last September.

It found some of the community teams were “overstretched” because there were not enough experienced nurses or therapists.

It called on the trust to take prompt action to ensure that the minor injuries and illness units were “consistently staffed by enough experienced and skilled staff”.

New rules brought in by the Care Quality Commission now mean that two qualified staff members have to be on the unit every night.

But Candace Plouffe, chief operating officer at Gloucestershire Care Services, said so few people were using the units overnight that it was difficult to attract nurses to work the shifts.

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She said this staff shortage was having a knock on effect by resulting in more closures.

“The number of people using Minor Injuries and Illness Units (MIIUs) late at night is extremely low,” she explained.

“Clinical staff who could be, and want to be, seeing patients during busy times, are currently required to work a night shift with minimal activity.

“This is not an attractive offer to experienced nurses and as a result our MIIUs are struggling to recruit to their full establishment.

“This is compounded by the national nursing shortage and a competitive job market.

“The overall picture that emerges is one of an overnight service which is accessed very infrequently, difficult to recruit to, subject to closure at short notice and not cost effective.

“Now, with our commissioners, we are developing proposals to better reflect how people make use of our MIIUs.”

Formal plans for minor injury unit opening hours will be put before the Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee meeting on July 12.

This will be followed by a seven week public consultation into the proposals.

Stroud General is currently one of just two units in the county which stays open all night.

The other is in Cirencester Hospital, which is 12 miles drive away. This unit was the second most frequent to close overnight, shutting overnight 46 times in five months.

Analysis from Gloucestershire Care Services has found that on average the minor injuries and illness units are used by less than one person per night between 11pm and 7.30am.

They added that 90 per cent of the patients were either well enough to wait and see a GP, or so ill they needed an A&E department.

The other units are in the north Cotswolds, Tewkesbury, Vale of Stroud and the Forest of Dean.

Across Gloucestershire, the new rules have forced the NHS to employ 30 per cent more staff, and the minor injury units are together posting a £600,000 funding gap.