Health chiefs vote to close hospital unit and defer decision on minor injuries care in Beccles

Talks are underway on how a major service at Beccles Hospital can be re-provided once its contract e

Talks are underway on how a major service at Beccles Hospital can be re-provided once its contract expires this year. Picture: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The minor injuries unit (MIU) at Beccles Hospital will be closed.

An intermediate care unit will be opened at Beccles Hospital in April. Picture: Nick Butcher.

An intermediate care unit will be opened at Beccles Hospital in April. Picture: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

However plans for an alternative minor injuries service for the town are yet to be approved.

The decision was made at a meeting of Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG) governing body today.

Members were asked to approve plans to close the MIU and re-provide the service from the medical practice on the Beccles Health Campus site.

However as an agreement has not yet been reached with the practice, members asked for further reassurance on how the new service will look.

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John Plaskett, from the CCG's governing body, said: 'I understand why the MIU has to close, I'm not against that, but what I am concerned about is what we are putting in its place.

'Until we've got a better understanding or agreement with the practice that the new service will be acceptable, I'm finding it difficult to support this.'

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The proposal is to provide the service through a locally enhanced service (LES) agreement with Beccles Medical Practice, with care at weekends and bank holidays provided by IC24, the company which runs the NHS 111 and out of hours service.

Beccles MIU no longer meets the standards required for minor injuries units, as there is no specialist children's nurse or emergency care practitioners on site.

Of the 477 responses the CCG received to the three-week engagement exercise in October, 158 people raised concerns about the restricted hours that the service would be available and 90 people said that the added pressure of the MIU in the surgery would diminish the level of the service the GPs currently offered.

The MIU is currently run from Beccles Hospital seven days a week, traditionally open from 8am to 8pm, although the opening hours were reduced to 10am to 6pm during the review.

The new proposal would see the service operating during the surgery's opening hours during the week, and at weekends an advanced nurse practitioner would be commissioned to work from the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, and respond to patients in Beccles if needed. Members of the public raised concerns at the meeting about how the service would work, how much money would be saved, and whether feedback from residents had been taken into account.

Beccles mayor Graham Catchpole said: 'Our doctors medical practice is being asked to pick up the pieces but with no financial help. It is not fair on them or possible.

'In the report there is no mention of the 3,000 signature petition against the closure, only the 477 people who replied to the consultation.

'This is a very worrying time for medical services in Beccles and for the surrounding villages.'

A clinical service review of the MIU was also carried out, which showed that on an average weekday 15 people used the service, some who were registered to other practices, with nine at weekends and six on bank holidays.

Cath Byford, director of commissioning and quality with the CCG, said: 'We recognise how important a minor injuries service is to local people, and are committed to ensuring patients can continue to access the care they need locally.

'Our review showed that use of Beccles MIU is generally low. As such, we believe a dedicated unit is not necessary, and that we could provide better value for money for our patients by commissioning minor injury services through an LES agreement instead.'

A spokesman from East Coast Community Healthcare, which manages the MIU, said a small number of staff would be affected. However she said they are confident they will be able to redeploy them all into other positions.

The MIU will close by mid-January, and the proposal will be put back on the agenda for the governing body's next meeting in January.

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