WITH pressure mounting on NHS services Burnham’s minor injuries unit (MIU) is no different.

In the last year, demand for the unit has increased and the Somerset Partnership has announced it will be extending opening hours.

It will now be open from 10am until 6pm every day, which is an increase from its current 11am until 3pm.

Paul Courtney, NHS Communications Officer for the partnership, quashed rumours Somerset NHS services are in crisis and encouraged people to make more use of minor injuries units.

“On the issue of whether local hospitals are ‘in crisis’ this winter, I can confirm that they are experiencing very high demand but I would not describe them as being ‘in crisis’ here in Somerset,” he said.

“Winter comes every year and the local authority and NHS hospitals, community services, ambulance services, NHS 111 / GP Urgent out of hours service and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s family doctors (GP’s) spend many months, well before winter, preparing for the extra anticipated demand.

“It is true when you hear on national news that many more people are taking themselves to district hospital accident and emergency for treatment.

“Surveys have shown that at least a third of people take themselves to hospital accident and emergency departments when they don’t need to be there and could have had their illness, minor injury or ailment treated more quickly and conveniently by visiting their pharmacist, calling NHS 111, visiting their local GP Practice or going to a minor injury unit. The whole of Somerset’s health and social care system works in close collaboration to ensure that patients come into the system and leave well and healthier.”

Burnham-on-Sea MIU is one of seven units in the county, with figures from the partnership showing occupancy rates have increased from 5,900 people to 6,058 using the unit between January 1 and December 31 2016 compared to the previous year.

James Heappey, MP for Burnham-on-Sea, said he is aware demand in Somerset A&E units has doubled and there has been a severe shortage of beds, with Weston General Hospital operating at one hundred per cent capacity already this year.

He said: “To claim all is perfect now is not true but to claim there is a crisis is not true either. I know A&E staff had to work extraordinarily hard to meet winter demand and I know too from some constituents who have contacted me that some had not been seen in the time they might expect. 

“However, I have heard from some others who had visited A&E expecting bedlam only to be seen in well under four hours.”

A spokesman for the Somerset Partnership said although Burnham MIU is feeling the pressures coming from extra demand they are finding ways to ensure the service runs smoothly.

He said: “The opening hours for Burnham MIU are extending to accommodate for extra demand. Somerset Partnership runs seven MIU’s across the county for patients whose injury or illness is not life threatening.

“We offer a ‘sit and wait’ service and the average waiting time is about 20 minutes, though patients can wait up to two hours at busy times.

“Even so, it is a shorter wait than A&E and a better place to get minor problems sorted. If people become ill overnight or at weekends they should call 111.”

For more information about services in your area visit sompar.nhs.uk.