NHS Dorset Healthcare Trust says that the 111 first approach to access minor injuries units (MIUs) is working extremely well, including at Swanage Hospital, but Dorset councillors aren’t convinced and are to scrutinise the decision.
Responsibility for running the MIUs in Dorset lies with NHS Dorset Healthcare Trust. It told Swanage.News that phoning 111 for an appointment at Swanage Hospital MIU will be the way it will continue to operate, meaning that patients will not be able to turn up and be seen, as they were pre-Covid.
“This way of working is much better for patients”
Jane Elson, Dorset Healthcare’s service director for integrated community services, said:
“The 111 first approach, which is aligned with national guidance, worked extremely well during the pandemic and is how we will operate going forward.
“This way of working is much better for patients as it reduces unnecessary travel, avoids crowded waiting rooms and ensures patients who do require in-person appointments have a shorter wait.”
“They are going to try and close down the MIUs”
At Dorset Council’s People and Health Scrutiny Committee on Monday 20th September 2021, councillor Jon Andrews from Sherborne raised concern that residents couldn’t get appointments for their local minor injuries unit via NHS 111 and were being directed elsewhere.
He said of NHS Dorset Healthcare Trust:
“No one can get into MIUs because of 111. They are going to try and close down the MIUs. I really believe that when the performance data comes out, they will say, ‘look no one is going to MIUs’ – well no one can get into the MIUs!
“So I’m really concerned. They are a vital service within our health structure in Dorset. We need to do all we can to ensure that they maintain them and open them, like they used to open them.”
NHS management will be invited to next meeting
It was suggested by the committee’s chair, councillor Gill Taylor and agreed by the committee to invite NHS Dorset Healthcare Trust management to update them on the MIUs at the committee’s next meeting on Monday 1st November 2021.
Friends of Swanage Hospital have recently funded a £1.2 investment including new facilities for patients, staff and relatives, as well as a therapeutic garden
Friends of Swanage Hospital campaign
At Swanage Hospital from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 until June 2021, the MIU did not use the 111 phone line but patients were asked to ring the hospital reception directly to book an appointment, which they could do from outside the door. The system changed in June 2021 and now people are being told to ring 111.
Friends of Swanage Hospital are now so concerned by the growing body of evidence that patients are finding it difficult to access the MIU via 111, that they’ve launched a campaign to get walk-in access reinstated and are asking residents to email them their recent experience of the system.
In the first week of requesting information, they received more than 30 examples of problems with getting treatment at the MIU in Swanage.
“What’s the point of ringing 111, if you can’t get through?!”
One local resident, Mike Hadley, needed to get medical help for a 91 year old man who had fallen and cut his head. He called 111 to get an appointment at Swanage MIU, but was unable to speak to an operator, despite waiting on the line for about half an hour. He said:
“Mindful that you shouldn’t ring 999 unless it’s life threatening, I phoned 111 and got endless messages about Covid. When people are phoning 111, they are probably quite stressed and that’s just not helpful.
“I was then finally put in a queue but you’re given no idea of your place in the queue so you can’t judge whether it’s worth hanging on or not. There’s just an odd message where the speaker pauses mid sentence in a strange way, which is quite off putting. I waited for 20 or maybe 30 minutes and during this time the elderly man was still bleeding.
“I recalled an incident in Swanage when a man hit his head and the air ambulance was called, so I just thought I’d have to ring 999, which I did and an ambulance arrived within the hour.
“What’s the point of ringing 111, if you can’t get through?! Maybe 111 is excellent if you can get through, but I never got to find out. It’s clearly not got the resources behind it to cope with the demand.”
Friends of the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne are also challenging the 111 appointment system policy at its MIU
Seven minor injury units in Dorset
NHS Dorset Healthcare Trust is responsible for seven minor injury units in Dorset. They are at Blandford Community Hospital, Bridport Community Hospital, Portland Community Hospital, Victoria Hospital in Wimborne, Westminster Memorial Hospital in Shaftesbury, Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne, as well as the unit in Swanage Hospital. There’s also an urgent treatment centre in Weymouth.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the units at Blandford, Portland and Sherborne were temporarily closed and only reopened in June 2021. When they resumed their service, the 111 appointment booking system was put in place, which was also when it was introduced at Swanage Hospital.
“We have received a great deal of positive feedback”
Jane Elson from Dorset Healthcare said:
“We have received a great deal of positive feedback from people who have valued receiving remote support, with no need to travel unnecessarily, and having allocated appointment times when face-to-face support is required.
“This approach has enabled MIUs to work more efficiently while also supporting more patients this summer than under pre-COVID arrangements.
“We do, however, recognise this is a change for people in how they access MIUs and will take time to get used to.
“We will continue to promote this new way of working and appreciate the community’s support in helping to do this.”
Swanage.News asked Dorset Healthcare to substantiate with evidence, the claim that it had received a great deal of positive feedback.
A spokesperson said:
“Thanks for your email. We’ve nothing further to add to our statement.”
- Those who wish to recount their recent experience of Swanage Hospital’s MIU may contact the Friends of Swanage Hospital by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to The Friends of Swanage Hospital, Queens Road, Swanage, BH19 2ES.
- To comment on the change of access to MIU’s in Dorset at the next meeting of the Dorset Council’s People and Health Scrutiny Committee on Monday 1st November 2021, written submissions from the public should be emailed to email@example.com by 8.30 am on Wednesday 27th October 2021.