STAFF shortages are forcing the minor injuries and illnesses unit (MIIU) at a Dursley hospital to regularly close during normal operating hours – forcing patients to travel miles for treatment.

In order to cover a lack of staff at Stroud General Hospital, nurses who would usually work at the minor injuries unit at Vale Community Hospital have been sent to Stroud, resulting in the temporary closure of Dursley’s MIIU.

On Monday the unit, which is scheduled to open from 8am-8pm seven days a week, did not open until 2pm with patients directed to Stroud instead, while it also closed last Sunday.

An inability to recruit additional nurses to staff MIIUs across Gloucestershire, combined with the prioritising of larger units in the county, has resulted in staff being called away from Vale hospital to ensure busier centres remain open.

Concerns about the closures were raised by Stroud district councillor for Dursley, Doina Cornell, at the meeting of Gloucestershire’s health and care overview and scrutiny committee last week.

As well as having closures reported to her, Cllr Cornell has had personal experience of the issues at the Vale hospital when, two months ago, she turned up at the minor injuries unit with her son to find it closed and had to go to Stroud instead.

She said: “I raised my concerns at the health and social care scrutiny committee but did not get an answer. 

“I am not aware of whether it is happening more frequently or the reasons why, and I am waiting to get some figures for recent closures. 

“I do find it concerning if it is becoming a regular occurrence.”
Along with the six other community hospitals in Gloucestershire, Vale is operated by Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust.

A spokesman for the trust said that staff were being redeployed from Vale to its minor injuries units at Stroud, which was being prioritised alongside Cirencester hospital in terms of staffing as they see more patients.

Sandra Betney, deputy chief executive of the trust, said: “Emergency nurse practitioners who manage these units are in extremely high demand nationally and we are doing everything we can to recruit permanent staff as well as using agency when available.

“Unfortunately this has resulted in the Vale MIIU closing on a few occasions in recent weeks. 

“Stroud General and Cirencester Community Hospitals have the largest MIIUs in the county, and on average see and treat double the number of patients, compared to other Gloucestershire MIIUs, and as such we have redeployed colleagues to ensure they stay open.

“We would like to apologise to anyone who has been inconvenienced by a closure at short notice.”