ACCIDENT and emergency is under pressure because too many West Fifers aren’t using the minor injuries unit at Queen Margaret Hospital.

NHS Fife said the result was more people going to Victoria Hospital and contributing to longer queues and waiting times there.

Director of acute services Heather Knox said, “Minor injuries services (MI), such as the one at QMH, can provide treatment for a range of minor or less serious injuries, and attendance at MI often results in being seen quicker, especially over busier periods such as evenings and weekends.

“Statistics consistently show that people are presenting themselves at A&E by default and failing to consider whether their injuries are more suitable for MI treatment.

“The knock-on effect of this is that these higher volumes mean longer waiting times for patients and increased pressure on A&E staff and services.” The Dunfermline unit was opened after A&E services were centralised in Kirkcaldy at the start of 2012 and a “major communications exercise” will be undertaken to let people know just which services they should be using.

Fears that opening hours could be cut due to low usage were quashed but the health board said A&E is struggling with the number of patients attending – some of whom could be treated elsewhere.

The minor injuries unit is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by specially trained nurses.

Examples of what they can deal with include: Simple fractures.

Back, shoulder and rib injuries.

Ankle, knee and wrist sprains.

Minor head and neck injuries.

Cuts and grazes which may need dressing and stitches.

Minor burns and scalds.

But they won’t treat: Gynaecological problems.

Pregnancy problems.

Alcohol and drug-related problems.

Mental health problems.

Drug overdose.

Severe allergic reactions.

Breathing problems.

Chest pain.

Illnesses where you feel unwell or are in poor health which a GP would normally treat.

The average monthly attendance at the unit in Dunfermline, for the first eight months of this year, is 1685.

That’s up from the 2013 average of 1581 but despite concerns about what low attendance could mean for the future of the unit, MS Knox said, “The unit at QMH is one of three minor injuries units in Fife and there are no plans to cut the number of hours that it is open.” She also said, “The minor injuries unit attendance figures at QMH are in line with our current expectations; however we are also actively pursuing ways to increase attendance, where it is appropriate.

“Indeed, we are about to embark upon a major communications exercise to ensure that people know where to turn to when they require medical assistance.

“This is aimed at alleviating some of the unnecessary demand which is placed upon A&E, and helping ensure people receive the best, most appropriate treatment in the shortest possible time; this will often result in people presenting themselves at a minor injuries unit – such as the one at Queen Margaret Hospital – and not A&E.”