Two minor injuries units look set to reopen after a health boss was challenged over the ‘implausible’ need to keep them closed because staff were helping out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bideford Hospital, which has also had its Minor Injuries Unit closed since March. Picture: Sarah HowellsBideford Hospital, which has also had its Minor Injuries Unit closed since March. Picture: Sarah Howells

At a Devon County Council meeting, Ilfracombe councillor Paul Crabb said more people ‘were being treated for unicorn bites’ than Covid-19 at North Devon District Hospital.

Cllr Crabb was questioning why the Ilfracombe and Bideford MIUs remained closed when there was no longer an urgent need for staff to help out at A and E in Barnstaple, as it was under no extra pressure due to coronavirus.

His questions were directed to John Finn, the assistant commissioning director for North East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) at the council’s health and care scrutiny meeting.

Cllr Crabb stated the meeting had just been told that the acute hospitals were operating at only up to 74 per cent of capacity, which seemed to imply the urgent need for staff which resulted in the MIUs closing, was becoming an increasingly implausible claim.

He said the committee had been told there had been a fall in visits to emergency departments.

Mr Finn told the committee that moving teams at the start of the crisis to support the main emergency department was a sensible approach.

He said: “We’re not in that place any longer actually, and there is a plan to reopen those two MIUs.

“I can absolutely give you an assurance that they will be up and running for the winter period.”

Cllr Crabb had questioned whether the ongoing closures were part of a strategy to change services and move away from using MIUs.

The units were closed at the end of March and at the time, a trust spokesperson said: “We are taking these steps as part of our preparations for COVID-19. Our MIU staff will be supporting our teams at NDDH with caring for patients and also supporting our community teams to care for patients at home, to keep them out of hospital where possible.”

As of Sunday, September 13 the total Covid-19 cases in North Devon stood at 146 and 65 in Torridge, but there have been 14 new cases in North Devon since September 1 and eight in Torridge.