A decision to temporarily close the Minor Injuries Unit in Launceston has sparked outrage within the community.
The decision, which was suddenly announced by Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust towards on 25th July, will mean that the MIU in Launceston will be closed until the 1st October, with staff relocating to the next closest MIUs at Stratton, Bodmin and Liskeard.
This sudden decision was met with confusion, concern and distress from the community, and local resident Roz May set up a petition to hold those responsible for the decision to account and demand answers on the future of Launceston MIU.
The petition demands ‘full disclosure of why this decision was made and by whom’ and adds, ‘We further demand that the Minor Injuries Unit is reopened immediately’. Within days of the petition being live, it already achieved over 1,500 signatures and numerous comments from supporters calling the service ‘invaluable’, ‘vital’ and ‘needed’.
Roz May, who started the petition, says she wanted to help give the community ‘a voice’ to be heard by those who had made the decision.
Roz is no stranger to campaigning for her local hospital. In 2017, she was part of a campaign to save the hospital after it had been suggested it would be closed altogether: “Back in 2017 we had campaigned about the possibility of the hospital closing as the local health services were being reorganised at the time and they had earmarked Launceston as a hospital we may lose, to make larger ‘hubs’ in other towns. Obviously this is ludicrous as the town needs its own services.”
After making contact with some of the people involved in the 2017 campaign, they came together to form a ‘campaign group’ and the idea of a petition was put forward. Roz said: “We could see how many people were speaking out on Facebook and we wanted to give them a voice and a way to be heard by those who made this terrible decision.
“In other places, temporary closures have turned into permanent ones and we didn’t want to sit back and let that happen here. Sometimes it can feel like there is nothing that can be done once the powers that be make a decision, but to lie down and do nothing just lets them get away with it.
“This decision was made without a proper consultation and without considering the needs of the locals in the area, and now, with the petition, the locals have shown that they want answers and how much the MIU is needed here.”
She added: “We hope that the numbers of people signing the petition and the comments they have made will mean that those who closed the MIU will meet to discuss the impact of the decision and find a way to ensure the service is reopened as soon as possible.”
Launceston Life made contact with Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, who have since recognised that communication with the community was somewhat absent in the decision-making process.
A spokesperson from the Trust said: “We recognise we should have done more to share this decision with the local community and apologise for our lack of communication.
“The decision to proceed with the temporary closure was made by a group of joint health and social care leaders who have been meeting regularly to manage the demand for these services.
“The temporary closure came into effect on Sunday, 25th July to allow staff to be relocated to the minor injury unit in Liskeard. Liskeard minor injury unit is a much larger unit and is, therefore, able to see more patients. Staff from Launceston will also work in the minor injury units in Bodmin and Stratton.
“This decision is in line with the Trust’s business as usual and Covid resilience plans which consolidate resources to ensure we are able to maintain safe services.”
The Trust says it, like other businesses, has experienced staff absences due to contracting Coronavirus or other conditions, or who have been ‘pinged’ by Track & Trace and have been told to self-isolate. However, with national guidelines circulating on 23rd July, the Trust is working on bringing staff back to work when it is safe to do so.
The Trust says anyone who needs urgent but not emergency care should call 111 in the first instance, where you may be directed to an appropriate service, which could be a minor injury unit in Liskeard, Bodmin, Stratton or Tavistock. It advises GPs also remain available and are offering appointments by telephone, video call and face-to-face.
Conservative MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann, says he is working to support Launceston during this uncertain time. He said: "I have held a very constructive meeting with The Interim Chief Executive of Cornwall NHS Partnership Trust, and their Head of Communications. My team and I learned a lot about the challenges of staffing in a pandemic when the staff have already been flat out for months on end.
"As with many employers, there are no easy solutions to short term staffing problems like the ones they are facing. However, I made the case for increasing services at Launceston and Stratton in the medium term and offered my help with whatever they require from the Government to help support the health provision in Launceston at this tough time.”
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust says Launceston MIU will be closed until 30th September and will keep the decision under continual review. All other services at Launceston Hospital will operate as usual.
If you would like to put your thoughts forward and sign the petition to ‘Save Launceston Minor Injuries Unit’, go to https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-launceston-minor-injuries-unit