VICTORIA Infirmary bosses say the minor injuries unit’s opening hours are ‘under constant review’ amid growing concerns over the decision to keep it closed at evenings and weekends.

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced earlier this week that the unit would continue with its current hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, until April 2021.

The move sparked a swift response from Northwich residents, councillors and Mike Amesbury MP, all calling for the decision to be reconsidered.

And a petition launched on Thursday night to restore the 9am to 10pm hours from before the pandemic had already received close to 1,400 signatures as of 3.30pm today, July 24.

In a new statement issued today, medical director Dr Murray Luckas said the trust is ‘committed to ensuring the residents of Northwich have access to local services’ and will look to 'enhance' them when it is safe to do so.

The trust has also expanded the GP out-of-hours service with face-to-face appointments at Victoria Infirmary available seven days a week, which were not previously available before the pandemic.

Dr Luckas said: “Local people can be assured that expert advice and support is available, and will remain available to anyone who needs it.

“We continue to review local services to meet the needs of our population and are keeping the opening hours of the minor injuries unit under constant review and actively working to enhance services once we are safely able to do so.”

Cllr Kate Cernik, Labour Cheshire West and Chester Council member for Winnington and Castle, wrote to NHS bosses in Cheshire urging them to reconsider the plans after they were announced.

Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale, says councillors and the Healthwatch organisation were not informed of the decision before it was revealed by the Guardian.

He spoke to Russ Favager, deputy chief executive at Mid Cheshire Hospitals, this afternoon to discuss his concerns – and he hopes the backlash could lead to longer opening hours at the minor injuries unit before next April.

“I expressed my disappointment that there had been no consultation with key stakeholders,” Mr Amesbury told the Guardian.

Northwich Guardian:

“They had said the full service offer would not be returning until April 2021 but they seem to be rolling back on that now.

“It is imperative that the whole community – residents and elected representatives – keep the pressure up on this.

“Our NHS has done a wonderful job in the Covid-19 crisis, but as we come out of that it is very important that people have access to local services.”

A petition calling for services to be protected at Victoria Infirmary – including the restoration of the minor injuries unit’s pre-pandemic hours – has been launched by Lee Siddall, of the Winnington and Castle Residents Voice group.

The petition says: “Our concerns are that this is an attempt to fade Victoria Infirmary away under the radar of Covid-19, and we find that this would be unconscionable.

“Our nearest A&E department at Leighton Hospital is not easily reached by public transport, and the cost of a taxi is out of the question for a lot of people

“The VIN provides vital services to the people of Northwich and the minor injuries unit is invaluable.

“Whilst everyone accepted the reduced times at the height of the pandemic we do not accept that this should be the case for the next eight months.”

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Victoria Infirmary is open for the out-of-hours GP service from 6.30pm to 10pm, Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 6pm at weekends – while residents can speak to a GP remotely or with a home visit from 6pm to 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Community services clinic appointments are also still being provided at Victoria Infirmary, while residents can also access support from NHS 111.