A SOMERSET MP claims the NHS is 'plotting' to reduce services in West Somerset after the overnight closure of a town's hospital department was extended for SIX MONTHS.

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for West Somerset, says he is convinced there is a plan on the table to permanently close Minehead's minor injury unit (MIU) at night.

It was first closed during overnight hours in July, a move which has now been extended until May next year.

NHS bosses say the move is to ensure the department was "safe and operationally robust".

Dr Matt Hayman, from the Somerset NHS trust, said: "Potentially life-saving treatment is delayed if patients attend an MIU rather than ringing 999 or going to an emergency department and delays in treatment can result in poorer outcomes for the patient."

But the MP says it is time Somerset NHS Foundation Trust came clean with local people.

“That is a totally spurious statement. The board has had four months to take local soundings about the closure: how much longer does it require and how many more opinions does it need to hear?" he said.

“I am deeply unhappy about this situation: even more unhappy than I was back in July when the announcement was sprung on us, because we are moving into the winter months when journey times to Taunton are likely to become longer and more fraught and ambulance response times even longer than the current, abysmal average in West Somerset.

“I am afraid I have become rather cynical about the board’s motives: clearly what is going to happen now is that on May 1 it will announce that Minehead has managed pretty well without the unit for 10 months, no-one has died and therefore the closure will become permanent.

“That is going to gravely jeopardise the health and wellbeing of people in West Somerset - and solely because the board will not allocate the funding to employ appropriately-qualified night-time staff.”