STAFF shortages are to blame for cuts to the opening hours of Andover War Memorial Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit (MIU).

NHS bosses have curtailed the number of hours at the unit for six months, which has been dubbed as “frustrating”.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has reduced its opening times to between 8.30am-6pm, which is the last time a new patient will be seen, seven days a week. Previously the unit closed at 7.30pm.

A trust spokesman said: “We have had to make the difficult decision to close earlier to ensure the service is staffed appropriately and safely.

“This decision is supported by our commissioning bodies, West and North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), who are working with us to help raise awareness of 111 and GPs, where appropriate.

“We are actively seeking to recruit urgent and emergency staff and emergency nurse practitioners who are the specialist staff necessary to run the MIU.

“We are committed to providing services in Andover and know how much local people value Andover War Memorial Hospital. We hope to be able to return to previous opening hours for MIU in an estimated six months’ time when we hope to have resolved staffing issues.

It comes just a month after a multi-million-pound plan was announced to revolutionise healthcare in Andover.

MP Kit Malthouse said: “This is very frustrating news especially given the recent announcement about the expansion and enhancement of health services in Andover.

“I have been in contact with the trust and I hope they will do their best to rectify this situation as soon as possible.”

Test Valley Borough Council leader Cllr Phil North said: “Considering the recent good news on the new Urgent Treatment Centre, which will bring together the minor injuries unit, extended access GP provision and out-of-hours services under one roof at the hospital next summer –It is worrying to hear that the trust have failed to recruit enough staff to adequately run the existing minor injuries provision, which is obviously a blow for patients.

“I welcome their commitment to resolving the situation – and I hope that they will be able to re-extend the opening hours in advance of their six-month estimate.”