A STAFFING crisis could force Stroud General Hospital’s 24-hour minor injuries unit to curb its opening hours.

Health bosses are considering a major shake-up as new figures revealed the unit had been forced to close overnight dozens of times during the last five months.

Between November 2015 and March this year, the centre in Trinity Road shut its doors overnight 67 times due to a lack of clinical staff.

This was by far the most closures of any of Gloucestershire’s seven Minor Injuries and Illness Units (MIIUs).

Last week alone the unit was closed from 10pm and 8am every night. These reduced hours will continue until Wednesday, June 15.

But Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust was quick to point out that the unit in Stroud has very few patients at night.

The trust is now planning a fresh review into the opening hours of the county’s MIIUs.

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Councillors have raised concerns that the review could lead to a reduced service in Stroud, meaning patients would have to travel to Cirencester or Gloucester for treatment.

Leader of Stroud District Council, Cllr Steve Lydon (Labour, The Stanleys), expressed concern over the figures, saying he feared for the long-term viability of the unit.

“These levels of overnight closures are very worrying. Clearly this current staffing model is unsustainable,” he said.

“We need to have some clarity on what the long-term future of this MIIU is.”

John Marjoram, Green district councillor for Trinity, said the unit was a “great resource” for the community.

“It’s absolutely vital we retain this 24 hour service in Stroud.

“Even if it is not busy every night it is important its services are there for patients are in need for help,” he said.

“Our NHS services need to be there for people when they need them.”

Lesley Williams, Labour county councillor for Stonehouse, said: “This a worrying trend for public services in Stroud and it means that we will have to travel much further to get the same treatment.

“All this will do is add more pressure onto the NHS in Gloucester and Cirencester.”

Stroud resident Kate said the minor injuries unit had been of “vital” service when she suffered serious burns to her face six months ago.

“I was in need of urgent help and it was after 11pm. The nurses there was so helpful and reassuring,” she said.

“Having the unit open meant I could receive medical care without having to drive all the way to Gloucester. We cannot lose this incredible resource.”

Stroud News and Journal:

Stroud General’s unit is one of seven in Gloucestershire that will have the opening hours reviewed.

This renewed scrutiny comes after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns about the safety of the units in Gloucestershire last September.

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

New rules brought in by the CQC mean that two qualified staff members have to be on the units every night.

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

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

“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,” she explained.

“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 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’s unit is the only one in the district which stays open all night.

The nearest 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.