THE chief campaigners in the battle to stop any cuts to the opening hours of Malton Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit will hand over the Mercury’s petition to health chiefs tomorrow.
Ryedale councillor Lindsay Burr and Dr Mike Lynch will present Simon Cox, the chief operating officer with the NHS Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commission Group, with the document ahead of his meeting with GPs.
In barely eight weeks since it was announced that the opening hours of the Minor Injuries Unit would be cut from seven days a week to 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, nearly 2,000 people sent in forms to the Malton and Pickering Mercury and signed an online petition, adding comments to illustrate their depth of feeling.
Health chiefs say the move, expected to save £100,000, is a temporary measure to help it tackle its £2.4 million share of the projected £19 million end-of-ear deficit that it will inherit when the York and North Yorkshire Primary Care Trust is dissolved in April.
But campaigners remain fearful the new opening hours will become permanent at the end of the financial year.
Cllr Lindsay Burr, a member of Ryedale District Council, said: “I certainly hope that they will take notice of basically the consultation we have done for them and listen to the people of Ryedale.
“The support has been overwhelming but not surprising because it is such an emotive issue for everyone.
“There are representations from, I believe, every village and town in Ryedale which is a strong response and shows the depth of feeling.”
She added: “In our online petition, people haven’t just signed their names but also made comments which I hope Mr Cox and everyone else at the CCG will read. It would have to have an impact on his thoughts surrounding the Minor Injuries Unit.”
Mr Cox said: “We appreciate the strength of local feeling towards the MIU and understand that no one wants to see any reduction in the services it provides.
“However, it is important that people recognise the magnitude of the financial challenges currently being faced by the NHS across North Yorkshire and York and that if we don’t take action now, the threat to services in the future will be even greater.
“As we will take over from the PCT in April next year, we need to do all we can to support it in order to keep any deficit we will inherit to an absolute minimum.
“I’d like to reassure people that we will do all we can to ensure they continue to have access to the most appropriate services for their needs, but this may involve looking at innovative solutions to providing services that may be different to what people are used to.”
Mr Cox also spoke to parish, district and county councillors at the Ryedale Area Committee meeting on Wednesday last week where he pledged that the CCG will be a more open body when it comes to any future changes at Malton Hospital.
“One of the things we will do is have more open negotiations with our public about how we spend our money,” he said. “Have open and honest discussions about what we do and do not fund and the more we do in an open public forum, the better.”
He added: “One of the things we will try to get out of the discussions with GPs is how to get the best coverage possible. In a place like Malton, it is very difficult to get 24 hours service. What we want to do is get the best level of support so journeys to York or Scarborough are minimised as much as possible.”