Fears hospital unit may close permanently

Closing on December 1: The Minor Injuries Unit at Whiteabbey Hospital. INNT 45-120-GR
Closing on December 1: The Minor Injuries Unit at Whiteabbey Hospital. INNT 45-120-GR
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The Northern Health Trust is unable to say if or when the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) at Whiteabbey Hospital will reopen to the public.

The Trust announced on Thursday (October 30) that the unit is to close “temporarily” from next month as part of a cost-saving exercise. But concerns have been raised that it may be axed permanently as the Department of Health implements further cuts.

Budget constraints mean the Trust has been forced to make savings of £6.9million for the remaining part of 2014/15. And as part of a programme of money-saving measures, officials have confirmed that the local MIU will close from December 1.

A spokesperson for the Trust said that the move will “allow staff to be redeployed to support emergency and urgent care at Antrim Area Hospital.”

“Overall our approach is designed to secure financial balance while delivering a safe service model,” she added.

While describing the closure as “temporary”, the Trust said it couldn’t give a date for the unit’s reopening. It would only say that it is still considering its plans for the 2015/16 financial year.

The Whiteabbey MIU, which treats around 200 patients every week, opened in the wake of the Trust axing full Accident and Emergency services at the hospital in 2010.

Its latest cost-cutting exercise has been slammed by trade union representatives and politicians, some of whom fear the facility could be shut permanently.

• See full story and reaction in this week’s Times (on sale now)