THE countdown to the controversial closure of the minor injuries unit at a community hospital has started with NHS chiefs telling residents where to go elsewhere for treatment.
People in Easingwold are being reminded of their options before treatment for non-urgent ailments ceases at St Monica's on Monday, January 3.
The primary care trust, NHS North Yorkshire and York, voted to axe the service after a review while also approving plans for minor injury services in Hambleton and Richmondshire to continue to be provided by GPs and hospital accident and emergency departments.
Officials have claimed emergency services are swamped by patients who would have been better off contacting a pharmacist, NHS Direct or their GP.
PCT associate director of public health, Dr Phil Kirby, said: "Last year we launched our Choose Well campaign to try and tackle the annual increase in pressure placed on NHS services during the winter period. People living in North Yorkshire have access to a range of NHS treatment and advice services, such as pharmacies where you can get on-the-spot advice and treatment from a trained professional."
Many of these services are available at night and on weekends, he continued, adding: "NHS Direct is another service that is often overlooked. It can provide confidential advice on treatment and is available 24 hours a day. It's a great service to use if you're unsure about what action to take and want guidance from a professional."
The initial recommendation to close the three minor injuries units was made by the Hambleton and Richmondshire Commissioning Group (HRCG) – a group of 17 GP practices in the Hambleton and Richmondshire districts of North Yorkshire.
The HRCG's chairman, Grahame Dickinson, said: "We have a duty to balance clinical issues with access to services. All GP surgeries in Hambleton and Richmondshire are funded to provide minor injuries services from 8am to 6pm during the week.
"Community hospitals have a prime responsibility to look after their in-patients who are often frail and elderly. These patients are put at risk when ward staff are called away to see minor injuries cases."