The minor injury unit (MIU) at Swansea’s Singleton Hospital will close from Monday until early spring due to a major refurbishment to an adjacent unit.
The Singleton Assessment Unit (SAU) will temporarily relocate to another part of the hospital, Ward 20, as the heavy duty refurbishment work cannot safely be carried out alongside patients.
The relocation of the SAU will, however, affect the hospital’s minor injury unit, which is next door to the SAU.
The minor injury unit will close from Monday, November 12 until early spring 2019.
The MIU’s opening hours are 8am to 8pm on weekdays, 8am to 1pm on weekends, and it is staffed by GPs. However, for some time staffing the unit reliably has been a struggle.
The MIU has been forced to close at very short notice because GPs have been unavailable to cover shifts, and was recently closed every Sunday for 17 weeks.
Patients cannot be notified about short notice closures, so some arrive and find it closed.
Until now, staff in the SAU have been able to assist if necessary, but during the refurbishment work they will be several floors up and in another part of the hospital.
ABMU Health Board states that there is not enough room in Ward 20 to relocate MIU as well, so it is not an option to move both services together.
Doctors are therefore concerned about safety risks to MIU patients who could arrive to find a closed unit, and no-one available to assist them.
GP Dr Stephen Greenfield said: “We strongly feel the safest option is to close the MIU while the SAU refurbishment is underway, and re-open it in the early spring, once the work is complete.
“While the vast majority of patients who use the MIU present with minor conditions, there is a very real risk that if someone arrived who needed emergency care for a serious condition and found it closed, there would be no one there to assist them.
“If this was to happen when the SAU was open, the SAU staff would be able to arrange for an emergency transfer to Morriston Hospital. But that won’t be an option once SAU staff have moved elsewhere.
“For this reason it is safer to temporarily close the MIU completely.
“We can then ensure we do all we can to alert people, including a communication campaign, changing our signs, amending website information and so on.
“Once the work is complete, the MIU will re-open.”
The Singleton Assessment Unit (SAU) refurbishment
The Singleton Assessment Unit (SAU) is a front door service dealing with sick patients referred directly from GPs and other community health professionals.
It also receives patients assessed by the ambulance service as not 999 emergencies but who still need to go to hospital for acute medical assessment or admission.
The SAU sees about 8,500 medical admissions a year and will now undergo major improvements over the next four to five months in response to concerns raised by the ABM Community Health Council and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales over the layout and general fabric of the unit.
The £300,000 work will include building modern new toilets, redesigning the layout to better help nurses care for patients, improving infection control and storage facilities and providing additional space for non-clinical support staff, freeing up more room for patients.
Demand on Singleton’s SAU is increasing, with 16% more patients arriving last winter compared with 2016-17.
Which service to use while the Singleton MIU is closed
While the Singleton MIU is closed, patients are being advised of alternative services including the Minor Injury Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital, and the Emergency Department at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.
They can also ring the free 111 service for advice at any time.
Other recent developments at the hospital include a £340,000 investment in a front-door comprehensive assessment service for older people, and £230,000 in an early supported discharge service for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a respiratory condition.
Following the upgrade of the SAU and the re-opening of the MIU, the health board and clinicians at Singleton Hospital will begin an engagement exercise to talk about the further opportunities to improve urgent care front door services at the hospital.