Minehead MIU: Safety fears as NHS service in remote Somerset town closed at night

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People in Minehead have called for what they say is a life-saving healthcare service there to be reopened overnight.

A four-month closure of the town's minor injuries unit began in July, meaning it is unavailable from 9pm each night to 8am each morning.

The NHS Trust which runs it says low staff numbers sparked safety concerns and a review is now taking place.

But local people, include mother Fern Longhurst, have said the town's isolation in West Somerset means people need it to be open 24 hours a day.

She had a health scare with her newborn daughter Bea in the middle of the night and turned to the unit for help.

"It’s literally five minutes down the road from where we live. They’re always professional and they’re always caring - especially for new mums," she said.

Fern Longhurst is concerned for new parents in the town, with the unit closed overnight Credit: ITV News West Country

Jackie Kerslake turned up at the minor injuries unit at 10pm recently to find the doors shut. She faced a three-and-a-half-hour wait for an ambulance.

She said: "I think lives are at risk. I really think there should be a doctor on call because we are very remote here and for some there’s a 25/30/40-mile journey to Taunton, which is a matter of life or death."

The NHS trust says safety concerns have led to the unit's temporary closure overnight. It says it needs to look at staffing, as when open at night it only had a paramedic and healthcare assistant on shift.

Deputy medical director Dr Matt Hayman said: "We are using this four-month period to engage with the public, with other healthcare professionals in the Minehead area to review the service and ensure that we can come up with an alternative, safe and operationally robust option to provide overnight support."

The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust says it will review staffing at the site before making a final decision about the overnight service Credit: ITV News West Country

This summer is set to be a busy for this tourist town and there are fears locally that without an overnight service at the hospital more pressure could be put on elsewhere.

Local healthcare campaigner Bryan Leaker said: "When somebody goes from here to Taunton and back by ambulance they could be gone for two and a half hours.

"It’s a folly - they should be offering a seamless service in a rural area and making sure that people in West Somerset are safe."

Councillor Mandy Chilcott represents Minehead on Somerset County Council. She said: "There is no doubt that some people without the help and support of the MIU would not be here to tell the tale today.

"I’ve heard many talk about how that initial support and treatment in an MIU has actually saved their lives."

The trust said the minor injuries unit is used much less overnight and, while this closure is in place, has urged people to dial 111 for non emergencies and 999 for life-threatening conditions.