MORE than 3,200 people have now signed a petition calling for the minor injuries unit at Victoria Infirmary to be open at evenings and weekends.

Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced last week that the shorter opening hours of 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, brought in earlier in the pandemic would remain until April 2021.

In a further statement on Friday, the trust then confirmed the hours would be kept 'under constant review', with a view to 'enhance' services when it is safe to do so.

Lee Siddall, of the Winnington and Castle Residents' Voice group, launched a petition calling for the hours to be restored last Thursday – and it had attracted 3,210 signatures as of 11.20am today, July 27.

He told the Guardian: "I am really pleased with the response I have had from it so far, with lots of positive comments saying how vital this service really is.

"It is really important that people don't stop signing it and sharing it. Fingers crossed people will keep encouraging others to sign it because it is so important that we get our voices heard.

"It is a vital service that we need to keep in Northwich as our population is growing – particularly in Winnington and Castle.

"Hopefully it will be a valuable tool for Mike Amesbury and the Northwich councillors to back up their argument to get everything reinstated to how it was pre-coronavirus."

The trust said the move was made to support its continued response to the pandemic, which has 'dramatically changed the way we care for patients'.

Patients were advised to visit Leighton Hospital's urgent treatment centre at evenings and weekends or contact NHS 111.

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

Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale, also called for a U-turn and spoke to hospital bosses last Friday about his concerns.

However, the announcement coincided with a decision to expand Northwich's out-of-hours GP service, meaning face-to-face appointments are now available at Victoria Infirmary seven days a week.

Dr Murray Luckas, medical director at the trust, 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.”

READ > Person in custody after drugs warrant executed by police in Barnton

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.

To see the petition click here.