A cut in hours at Forfar’s minor injury and illness unit (MIIU) is “unfortunate” but a necessary compromise, according to Angus Council’s social work and health convener.
Councillor Glennis Middleton said this week that the NHS has been facing a difficult situation due to staff shortages although she is hopeful that staffing can be brought up to full strength.
The change to the unit’s opening hours came into effect on Monday. It will now be open during the week between 9am and 4.30pm instead of 8am to 10pm although it will be open between 7.45am and 10pm at weekends and on public holidays.
NHS Tayside said the change is temporary but will continue until additonal staff can be found.
Cover will be provided outwith these hours by Arbroath Infirmary’s unit which will be open 24 hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
Dr Andrew Russell, the health authority’s medical director, said that shortening weekday hours will allow the unit, at Whitehills Health and Community Care Centre, to stay open longer for peak periods at weekends.
He said: “We find ourselves in a position where there is a shortage of appropriately-trained staff and a difficulty in recruiting new staff and we have had to make the decision to temporarily restrict the opening times of the units.
“We realise that this temporary change to working hours in the MIIU may mean that some patients have to travel further to access services and we apologise for this. However, shortening the opening hours during the week allows us to keep the services open longer during the weekends when it is busier.”
Dr Russell also pointed out that the change would allows all four MIIUs in Angus to keep operating.
Mrs Middleton said: “It’s unfortunate that the hours have had to be changed but I think we’ve reached a reasonable compromise in that all the MIIUs have cover at the time when they are traditionally at their most busy.
“These are very difficult times. It takes a long time to train to work in an MIIU and unfortunately once these staff have the very high level of skills that are required then clearly they can have better job offers and move on which leaves usin a very difficult position.
“It’s the same across Angus but I’m very hopeful that we’ll have staff with the right skills and right expertise who will be attracted to really very important and responible positions.”