Campaign launched to reinstate walk-in access to Swanage’s minor injuries unit

The Friends of Swanage Hospital says it is horrified that the minor injuries unit (MIU) is locking its doors to walk-in patients, so it’s launched a campaign to highlight the failures of the new system.

A change to national NHS policy during the pandemic in 2020 meant that the NHS 111 First scheme was introduced. This requires all patients who do not have life threatening emergencies to call NHS 111 first for assessment before attending minor injuries units.

Ringing the hospital directly

In Swanage, during the pandemic up until June 2021, the hospital operated a booking system for the MIU with patients ringing the hospital directly for appointments. This was to protect staff from Covid and limit the number of patients in the waiting room at a time of crisis.

In June 2021, the phone number was switched to the NHS non-emergency call centre 111, in line with other MIUs in Dorset.

Now the Friends of Swanage Hospital believe that Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust, who operate the MIUs in Dorset, is permanently ending any future walk-in access to get treatment for minor injuries.

Swanage Hospital's front door

Locking our hospital doors

In a statement, the Friends of Swanage Hospital said:

“The Friends of Swanage Hospital are horrified to discover that what we thought was a temporary measure during lockdown – locking our hospital doors and directing anyone coming to the minor injuries unit to ring 111 first for an appointment – is now a permanent arrangement.

“But currently the NHS website says you can walk into an MIU and suggests you ring 111 ‘if you are unsure where to go’.”

Making it hard for residents to get through

Locally, evidence is mounting that the NHS 111 call centre is struggling to cope with the volume of calls, making it hard for Swanage residents to get through to book appointments and when they do, they often, confusingly, get directed to Poole Hospital rather than nearby Swanage Hospital.

With an injured child or elderly relative, residents are saying that this is causing delay and additional stress when trying to access healthcare.

Swanage hadn’t even come up on his list!

Swanage resident Laura Burden said:

“I had a call from my child’s school to collect him as he’d hurt himself and was warned he may need an x-ray.

“Knowing that the x-ray department at Swanage Hospital is only open until 2 pm, I called 111 immediately and they tried to get me to go to Poole. I said we have a perfectly decent hospital two minutes away – what’s wrong with that one? But Swanage hadn’t even come up on his list!

“He did manage to get me an appointment but not until 3.20 pm, even after I explained that would be no good as we would miss the opening times of the x-ray department.

“After accepting that appointment and finishing the call, one of the Swanage nurses called to say that they could see him earlier, as from the notes he needed an x-ray and it would be shutting soon.

“Thankfully everything was fine but very stressful and unless you tell them what you need and where you want to go, they could send you miles away!”

Exterior of Swanage Hospital

Giving up trying to get seen

The fear of the Friends is that NHS managers may think they are efficiently managing patient numbers, when the reality is that many genuine cases are giving up trying to get seen because of the barrier that the NHS 111 system is introducing into the system.

Another resident Margaret Strong said:

“I tried to be seen on Saturday morning – I was told I had to dial 111. I could hardly open my eyes because they were so swollen. I was told I didn’t need to go to the hospital.

“I said I had lived here all my life and have always been seen here in our lovely hospital. I was very disappointed and in a lot of pain.”

Call for evidence

In order to find out the reality of residents’ recent experiences of the MIU, the Friends of Swanage Hospital is launching a campaign and asking people to share their stories. On its website it says:

“Have you recently tried to go to the Minor Injuries Unit at our hospital? Then you discovered the door was locked and you had to ring 111 for an appointment?

“In our view, this is simply wrong – anyone should be able to walk into our hospital if they have a minor injury or ailment and get help from our caring and knowledgeable MIU staff.

“So the Friends want your help to collect evidence – please tell us your experience of trying to go to our MIU. Please let us know your story – it’s an SOS – Save Our Services!”

Contact 111 first for an assessment

In July 2021, a spokesperson for Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We would urge everyone with a minor injury or ailment which is not life-threatening to contact 111 first for an assessment. This will save time and ensure people are directed to the right service.

“If someone turns up at an MIU without doing so, they will still be assessed, but – if not requiring immediate support – may be asked to call 111 or given a subsequent booked appointment.

“Contacting 111 first is likely to save them time and an unnecessary journey. If someone has a more serious injury which requires urgent medical attention, they should call 999 as usual.

“The 111 first approach has worked extremely well during the pandemic and is how we plan to operate going forward, though we will keep it under review in line with national guidance.”

Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne
Friends of Yeatman Hospital

There’s an MIU at Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne

Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne

The Friends of Swanage Hospital are not the only organisation in Dorset launching a campaign against the end of walk-in access to MIUs. Friends of the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne is also challenging the policy.

Jill Warburton, Vice-Chair of the Friends of the Yeatman Hospital and Sherborne Town Councillor said:

“You now have to make an appointment before you can attend… We are concerned this might defeat the purpose of the NHS charter – healthcare when needed – not by appointment only.

“The Friends of the Yeatman Hospital is preparing a submission to Dorset Healthcare University Trust to challenge this decision.”

They too are asking residents to tell them their real life experiences of their MIU in Sherborne.

Swanage Hospital staff with a patient in the new garden
Dorset Healthcare

Swanage Hospital staff members in the new garden: facilities area manager Pat Cooper, matron Donna Kiss and healthcare assistants Carrie Nickless, Laarni Parts and Jayne Sanderson – with patient Stuart Holt

£1.2 million refurbishment

The Friends of Swanage Hospital has a broad remit to promote the work of the hospital and the well-being of its patients and staff. It does this by membership subscription, fundraising, legacies and donations, raising thousands of pounds each year for the hospital.

Most recently it has given £1.2 million to extensively refurbish Swanage Hospital including providing a refurbished activity and dining room, a new kitchen area and a new patient lounge.

There’s also a new rest area for staff and en-suite accommodation for relatives of patients receiving end of life care. Outside, there’s a therapeutic garden for patients, a new car park with electrical charging points and solar panels on the roof.

As well as the MIU, Swanage Hospital provides 15 inpatient beds, out-patient clinics, day surgery, x-ray, ultrasound and physiotherapy services.

Contact Friends of Swanage Hospital

Those who wish to recount their recent experience of Swanage Hospital’s MIU are urged to contact the Friends by emailing membership@friendsofswanagehospital.org.uk or by writing to The Friends of Swanage Hospital, Queens Road, Swanage, BH19 2ES.

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