THE Gazette & Herald is stepping up its campaign this week to stop further cuts at Malton Hospital after receiving a flood of support from readers.

Comments have been posted online along with letters backing ‘Don’t Cut the Care’ which was launched last week following the announcement that opening hours of the minor injury unit are to be reduced.

Proposals are in place to cut the opening hours from 8am to 9.30pm, seven days a week to just 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Coun Lindsay Burr (Lib Dem), ward member for Malton on the District Council, is a key campaigner and is calling for Ryedale-wide support.

“Following the overwhelming response from readers we feel we need to keep the momentum going with the help and support of local people,” she said.

“Posters and petitions will be distributed to all of our local towns – Malton, Norton, Pickering, Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside – which in due course can be presented to the Primary Care Trust (PCT) to show our united anger at the imminent threats to reduce the minor injury unit opening hours.”

Dr Michael Lynch, senior partner at Derwent Practice, Malton, said the move would save an estimated £100,000 against the £19 million deficit in the region.

“I’m very pleased and not at all surprised to see the widespread support for the continuation of this valuable local service,” he added, “I’m certain that the term ‘temporary closure’ is a way of destroying the service without the need for public consultation, which is wrong Dr Lynch added: “It may be worth changing the name to Ryedale Minor Injuries Unit to reflect the equally- strong concerns of potential patients in Pickering and Kirkbymoorside who have even further to travel to a larger unit.”

Gazette & Herald reader Mike Gwilliam said he had been alerted to the threat when a friend suffered a minor head injury.

“On arrival, he was dealt with in the usual courteous and effective way but was also advised that he was lucky to be treated as the unit would shortly be open only on weekdays 9am-5pm. He was further advised that the unit was likely to close entirely in April 2013,” he added.

“Once more, we have cuts at the hospital being undertaken in stealth and secrecy by the health authority. When there were previous scares we were assured that in future, proper consultation would take place before decisions were made.”

Mr Gwilliam said: “Well done to the Gazette & Herald for launching a campaign. I will certainly be giving it my support and I hope that many others will do likewise.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee, Coun Mike Knaggs, who represents Malton, told members: “Our hospital has already lost its maternity unit. Is it just going to become a care home in the future?”

He said that anyone suffering an injury faced a 22-mile journey to Scarborough Hospital or 20 miles to York.

“These long journeys will be made much worse because in summer the traffic on the A64 is heavy with the holiday season, and in winter the road can be difficult with fog and snow.”

Coun Knaggs said Malton and Norton had growing industrial estates and the prospect of a further 1,500 new homes being built in the towns.

“We have a number of agricultural machinery and other businesses where there could be accidents and Ryedale is of course, a very significant tourist area so an accident and emergency department is vital for our area,” he added.

“Ryedale also has a large number of schools with hundreds of children as well as many sports clubs.

“The Malton and Norton Rugby Club itself has a total of 16 teams and there could often be minor injuries in matches. All these are reasons for retaining the unit.”

Leader of Ryedale District Council Keith Knaggs (Cons) said: “I accept that healthcare provision in North Yorkshire has been chronically under-funded for decades, and can’t see any improvement.

“So how are the financial needs which produce this service reduction going to disappear next April? We all know how temporary things become permanent. It is a total contradiction of the planned role of Malton as a local community hospital and we shouldn’t just accept it.”

Simon Cox, chief operating officer for NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has said the NHS in North Yorkshire and York is facing significant financial challenges and the PCT is predicting a year-end deficit of £19 million.

In order to help prevent the PCT’s deficit from increasing further, it, and other CCGs, in the area, are working together to identity a range of short-term measures. One of these is to review the opening times of minor injuries units, he said.

Mr Cox has said that statistics show that during weekdays the majority of patients access the unit between 9am and 5pm and for patients requiring services outside these hours and during weekends there are alternative services, such as the GP out-of-hours service.

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Candidates have their say on hospital cuts

NORTON goes to the polls tomorrow (Thursday) in a by-election prompted by the death of Ryedale District councillor Judith Denniss.

We asked the three candidates for their views on the plan to cut the opening hours of the Minor Injuries Unit

Di Keal, Liberal Democrat

LIFE doesn’t stop at weekends and neither should our Minor Injuries Unit at Malton Hospital. It is unacceptable to expect someone with a broken arm to travel for 40 minutes to York or Scarborough and face treacherous roads in winter or heavy congestion in summer when they are in considerable pain.

This move is false economy – sending patients to the acute hospitals costs a minimum of £20 more per person than treating them here in Malton in our excellent community hospital.

Relying on the already-over-stretched out-of-hours doctors will cost more than keeping the unit open at weekends as this is a very expensive service.

This feels like history repeating itself. We lost our maternity unit in a similar way – reduced hours followed by claims that the unit wasn’t used. It is difficult to use a facility that is closed, so numbers will obviously decline. This cannot be allowed to happen with the Minor Injuries Unit.

The Clinical Commissioning Group says that this is a temporary closure – the people of Norton, Malton and Ryedale need and deserve a cast-iron guarantee from them that this much-needed unit will be up to full opening hours again in April 2013.

Karl Reveley, Labour

I WOULD like to give my full support to the ‘Don’t Cut the Care’ campaign. I was appalled to hear the proposed plans to reduce the opening hours of Malton Hospital minor injuries unit. The amount of people who will have to travel to York or Scarborough from Malton, Norton and surrounding villages is frightening, particularly when they are ill or in need of immediate treatment.

The ambulance service is stretched as it is and nurses may find themselves out of work. We are two ever-expanding towns with more and more housing developments taking place. All the local residents as well as visitors to the area’s many attractions and factory workers need a community hospital close at hand for minor injuries. If these plans go ahead, I fear it will be the beginning of the end for our hospital.

Paul Farndale, Conservative

AS the Conservative candidate for the Norton West Ward in the forthcoming election, I find it appalling that the Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group could even think about closing the Minor Injuries Unit at Malton Hospital on a weekend and just opening from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Friday.

Accidents happen all the time, at any given time, and if something happens in these ‘out of office hours’ waiting for the duty GP to arrive, who may be on call to one of the local villages, can be very stressful. Time is of the essence.

It might be that the injury looks worse than it is and only needs cleaning and a plaster, which the nursing staff could accommodate, leaving the doctor to be available for more serious events.

They seem to forget that in the immediate area we have two meat processing factories which work late shifts and are using sharp and dangerous instruments as part of their business and accidents do happen quite regularly. Luckily their own first aid staff cope with the minor injuries.

The commissioning group is saying it is only for a short term, but it could be the thin edge of the wedge and we will rue the day when it happened and they start to close other parts of the hospital on a whim.