Winter pressures will see Stratford's MIU closed until 2022
Stratford’s Minor Injuries Unit will not re-open this year with health bosses prioritising the urgent care site at Warwick Hospital this winter instead.
The MIU at Stratford was temporarily closed by the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) in April last year as staff were redeployed elsewhere to help deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
There were worries from some residents that the prolonged closure could have been a signal the unit may never re-open, but in July this year SWFT confirmed that patients would be able to return ‘in the coming months’. At the time the organisation said it would be carrying out a deep clean at the unit.
However, when contacted by the Herald this week, SWFT admitted that expected winter pressures mean the unit will not open in 2021 and was unable to provide clarity on exactly when it would.
A spokesperson for SWFT said: “Over the last 18 months coronavirus has had a huge impact on all aspects of healthcare, and in response to managing the pandemic healthcare providers have had to make difficult operational decisions.
“As a result of this South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and Coventry and Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group, temporarily closed the Minor Injuries Unit at Stratford Hospital to ensure staff could care for patients where they were most needed.
“Winter is always a difficult time within the NHS and with the levels of demand we have experienced throughout the summer, which are higher than before Covid with no signs of reducing, we expect this year to be especially challenging.
“To support the organisation during this period the trust has developed a robust winter plan and an integral part of this plan is making sure we have the staff available to care for people in the right place at the right time. Re-opening the minor injuries unit might seem like a good solution to managing the increased demand, but staffing this specialist unit is not straight forward.
“To run a minor injuries unit a mix of clinical skills is needed, which would require us to re-deploy staff from our main urgent care site at Warwick Hospital. To operate safely throughout winter we need to continue having the right staff available to work in this critical area which means we are not currently in a position to re-deploy the staff needed to re-open the minor injuries unit at the moment.
“The trust recognises how much the community value the minor injuries unit and we will continue to work with clinical and operational teams to identify the best options for re-opening in a safe and sustainable way.”
Former Stratford mayor Cyril Bennis, who has been seeking answers on the future of the MIU, said: “I find this news very disturbing and we’re getting far too many excuses. SWFT have also been very hesitant about coming forward and telling us what is going on with the MIU.
“I think this is all just another fob off of our community, it’s scandalous really.”
Town councillor and community first responder Gill Cleeve added: “Obviously urgent care needs to be the priority, but it’s so disappointing that they have not got the staff available in the first place for the MIU. The MIU not operating will have a knock-on impact on urgent care services, on our paramedics.
“The government should have planned for this greater pressure on the NHS over winter and should be giving it the money and resources it needs. Keeping the MIU closed to support urgent care in Warwick is really just putting a band aid over the problem.”
Warwick Hospital is not without its own staffing issues though, with its purpose-built birth centre forced to close 12 times since the start of June due to lack of staff (see below).
Last week Glen Burley, chief executive at SWFT, admitted that it would be difficult to reduce waiting times going into a demanding winter.
Mr Burley acknowledged that the government’s recently announced rise in National Insurance contributions would see extra cash coming to the NHS, but added: “The investment will also come with a heavy expectation on the NHS that we can use it to make improvements in waiting times rather than simply standing still.
“This will not be an easy ask to deliver over what is expected to be the hardest winter ever in terms of emergency demand.”