THE reduction in opening hours at the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Malton Hospital takes effect from Monday as support continues to grow for our Don’t Cut the Care campaign.

Hundreds of readers have put their names to petitions, both through the Gazette & Herald and in shops and businesses across Ryedale, and members of the local racing community have now added their support.

A protest march through Malton is planned on Saturday, December 15, starting at the hospital at 10am.

Although the NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has said the reduction in opening hours from 8am-9.30pm, seven days a week, to 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, is temporary, leading campaigner Coun Lindsay Burr (Lib Dem) said she was not convinced, particularly in light of news that a financial review is to be undertaken across the county’s health services.

Options include curtailing services at Scarborough Hospital including downgrading the maternity service and closing the A & E unit at night.

Coun Burr said: “When Scarborough agreed to merge with York they were given a cast-iron guarantee that services would not be cut and look what’s been suggested.

“How, in all honesty, can we believe what we are told. It’s critical we put up a strong united fight and protest at the cuts.”

A staff member at Malton Hospital, who asked not to be named, said they were devastated by what was happening at the unit.

“We are all being split up and sent to Scarborough or York, but we could be deployed anywhere,” they said. “Many are convinced this will be made into an outpatients’ department and they will get rid of the minor injuries unit altogether.”

They added that the reduction in opening hours was a false economy as patients would have to call for an ambulance to take them to York or Scarborough.

“To say there is an out of hours department is not the same. There is not the same access as the unit.

“We all know this isn’t a temporary measure and the staff are all really upset and bothered about the local people it will affect more than themselves.

“The people of Ryedale are going to be let down and not have the facility they need and deserve.”

The campaign has been joined by members of the local racing community who say the unit is crucial.

Norton trainer Brian Ellison said the industry was one of the biggest in the country.

“Our staff start work early in the morning and weekends as well. Only a couple of weeks ago one of the girls fell off a horse and would have had to go to York if Malton hadn’t been open,” he said.

“The Government spend money on ridiculous things when one of the most important things is our hospitals.”

Tom O’Ryan, the Gazette & Herald’s racing correspondent, said the minor injuries unit was crucial for the racing and equestrian community, along with everyone involved in sport.

“For obvious reasons, when people are involved in a job such as racing where there are constant dangers it is very, very important that that facility is there,” he said.

Simon Cox, accountable officer for NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG, said: “While I appreciate this action is unpalatable for many people, it is essential that we take action to reduce costs now in order to preserve valuable NHS services in the future. Given the urgency of the need to reduce costs, we believe this proposal will be an effective short-term solution.

“We know that the MIU at Malton is accessed more frequently during the day as opposed to evenings, and that when the MIU is closed, patients can access alternative services such as the out of hours GP service or NHS Direct.

“I fully appreciate the strength of local feeling towards the MIU, but I cannot overstate the magnitude of the financial challenge.

“It’s also important to say that there is no risk to jobs from the reduction in opening hours. Any staff affected will be redeployed into an alternative service.”

Patients who require treatment of a minor injury or illness when the MIU is closed should phone their GP practice to access either their GP or out of hours GP service, or NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for advice.

Add your voice

IF you oppose the cuts being made to the opening hours of Malton’s Minor Injuries Unit, make sure your voice is heard by signing our petition.

You can sign online, or sign a petition form at one of the following businesses:

Malton: Gazette & Herald, Peter Illingworth, Bulmer’s Desirable Nails, Streekz, Tuis, Hays Travel, Beechams Health Food Shop, Wallis, Hunters, Mark Stephenson, Add & Accessories, Halls Bag Shop, Reeds Rains, Margaret Davies, Andersons, Harrisons and Hargreaves, Aldrich Barbours, Country Classics, The Kingfisher Café, Townend & Co, Number 19.

Pickering: Dales, White Swan, Paddison jewellers, Reeds newsagents, Wrothwell chemists, Moorland newsagents Goodys.

More petitions can be collected from Something for the Weekend in Pickering

Kirkbymoorside: Victoria Rose Interiors, Penny café, Waind’s butchers, Towler chemist, Thomas the Baker, Nicola Atkinson beauty, Goodys, Kirkby news.

More petition forms are available at the Gazette & Herald’s Malton office.