The Minor Injury Unit at Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Community Hospital will be suspended for another three months as efforts to recruit specialist nurses have failed, it has been announced.
Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said further advertisements for skilled minor injuries nurses for Ashburton had failed to attract a single applicant. The suspension will be reviewed again at the end of the year.
In September, a meeting of local councillors, League of Friends, voluntary sector representatives and others interested in healthcare agreed the Minor Injury Unit was not providing good value for money for local people, as on average only two people a day used the service. They said they would be prepared to see it closed.
Any proposal to close the unit permanently would go to full public consultation, to give everyone a chance to have their say. In the meantime, recruitment efforts will continue.
Dr Adam Morris, Medical Director at Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust, said: “Nurses trained in minor injuries are in demand, and we recognise they are unlikely to choose to work at Ashburton and Buckfastleigh because they need to be treating much bigger numbers if they are to keep up their skills and develop their careers.
“Before the service was suspended in June we had had great difficulty even in securing expensive agency staff to cover shifts at the unit. Inconsistent and unpredictable staffing meant it was just not safe to keep the service running.”
South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which organises and pays for local healthcare, said it supported the continued suspension of the unit.
Dr Ben Titford, Ashburton GP and CCG locality lead, said: “We have been spending a lot of money on a service that local people don’t seem to find really useful – and with resources quite scarce, we need to make sure we put them to the best possible use.
“We are planning more discussions with people in the area, and will seek wider views through a consultation before any final decision is made.”