A FINAL decision on the future of Swansea’s only minor injury unit (MIU) could be taken in November.
The Singleton Hospital facility was meant to reopen this spring after a period of temporary closure, but Swansea Bay University Health Board chiefs kept it shut due to a shortage of GPs willing to work there.
Despite attempts to recruit GPs, the MIU is to remain closed until November, subject to health board approval at a meeting on July 25.
Gareth Howells, the health board’s director of nursing and patient experience, said it was felt the MIU would provide a poor – even unsafe – service if it was to reopen.
He said staff who worked there would continue to support other unscheduled care services at Singleton Hospital, such as the acute GP unit. “Using resources this way has reduced unnecessary hospital admissions and also diverted ambulance patients to alternatives forms of care,” said Mr Howells.
He added that patient watchdog, the Community Health Council (CHC), has supported the proposed closure until November with the expectation that the health board carries out a public engagement.
The MIU used to operate 24/7 but declining patient numbers led to reduced opening hours.
Staffing issues forced temporary closures at short notice, before a more prolonged period of closure last November due to a revamp of an adjacent unit.
In October last year 268 patients attended the MIU, which doesn’t have an X-ray machine for fractures, compared to 540 the previous October.
Speaking last week, the CHC’s interim chief officer Mwoyo Makuto said the clinical case for closing the MIU seemed strong. She said: “We cannot comment on what clinicians say, but what we can do is absolutely insist that patients have a say in whatever is proposed.”
Mr Howells said the health board would gather more data and speak to patients who have used both the MIU and acute GP unit. He said this would lead to potential options for the future use of MIU resources and a period of public engagement in September and October, prior to a decision being taken in tandem with the CHC in November.