COMMERCIAL: South West Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has scooped a two-year contract to run a doctor-led minor injuries unit following a unanimous public vote to cut the current services opening hours.

The new service will replace a round-the-clock nurse-run unit at Tiverton District Hospital, which had been in operation for several years but had often been forced to close because of staff shortages.

The decision to replace this arrangement with a doctor-led servie was taken by North, East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group after more than 1,500 residents took in favour of the move in a poll held early last year.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents opted for a 14-hour-a-day doctor-led unit instead of a 24-hour nurse-run service during the consultation.

Under an initial two-year deal, the ambulance service will run the unit from July until 31 March 2016, when the contract for the MIU and other services at the hospital is due to be re-let as part of a wider recommissioning of community services.

Although the CCG had been reluctant to let the contract ahead of the recommissioning, it decided to press ahead in the face of increasing public disquiet that their views were being ignored.  

John Finn, managing director of the eastern locality of the NEW Devon CCG, described the two-year deal as “a great example of the CCG working with the community to develop a service that people felt was right for them.

“We wanted to make sure that patients would continue to have access to high-quality care at their local MIU and we are confident that [the ambulance service] will provide this.”

Services at the minor injuries unit are currently provided by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust which runs the hospital.

HSJ understands Northern Devon had been approached to run the doctor-led service but declined because it could not provide the service for the amount of money offered by the CCG.

The ambulance trust plans to staff the unit with GPs and nurse practitioners, supplemented by the trust’s ambulance emergency care practitioners.

Its chief executive Ken Wenman said: “We are committed to retaining, strengthening and growing our urgent care service lines, ensuring that they are of high quality, clinically safe, cost effective and fit for purpose.

“Securing the Tiverton MIU is another important step on our journey to delivering this for the benefit of our patients.”