HEALTH fears have been raised as opening hours at Chard’s Minor Injury Unit are slashed by a third.

Health bosses insist the measures are temporary.

The unit, at Chard Community Hospital on Crewkerne Road, will now close at 6pm instead of 9pm, meaning patients will be forced to travel to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton or Yeovil District Hospital for care after hours.

The unit previously opened seven days a week from 9am to 9pm but due to a shortage of trained staff bosses have reduced those hours to 10am to 6pm, with the last patient admitted at 5.30pm.

Eric Beckley, chairman of the patient participation group at Essex House Surgery in Chard, criticised the move saying it will put more pressure on accident and emergency departments.

He added: “This is a retrograde step for the community.”

Chard town councillor Graham Forsyth, who represents Avishayes ward, said he used the facility one night last month after he cut his finger with a knife.

He said: “The staff were wonderful. I was unable to drive, so my wife drove me up and we were home again, bandaged up and a little bit wiser, within the hour.

“This is something that has just happened and the people of Chard have been kept in the dark about it.”

The unit generally deals with injuries such as minor burns, head injuries, broken bones, animal bites and sporting strains and sprains.

A spokesman from Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said to allow for a major national recruitment campaign, Somerset Partnership and the GP-led Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed to temporarily reduce opening hours at the times of lowest patient demand.

He said the number of people using Chard MIU, in the proposed closed period, averaged six patients. Anyone who needed treatment outside of these temporary opening hours was advised to call 111 to be directed to the appropriate service.

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