STAFF shortages have forced the temporary closure of a minor injuries unit.

The Penrith Urgent Treatment Centre, at Penrith hospital, will close overnight temporarily for three nights, starting tonight. The Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the unit, said it had taken the "difficult decision" to shut the unit at nights due to a shortage of staff.

Bosses stressed that the urgent treatment centre sees very low numbers of people during the night.

They added that the majority of these patients can still be seen in Penrith via an appointment with the out-of-hours GP service Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC), which also has a base on the site.

As a result, the priority was to keep the centre open during busier daytime periods.

Those with more serious issues can still use A&E at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

The Penrith urgent treatment centre provides a service for, cuts and grazes, sprains and strains, bites and stings, infected wounds, minor head injuries, and eye problems, such as minor eye infections, scratches or something that is stuck in your eye.

Anyone who needs to access this service outside of these hours they should phone 111, to be directed them to the most appropriate service.

The unit will resume 24/7 operation at 8am on Saturday.

Tim Evans, deputy operational lead, said: “The trust has done its utmost to keep the unit open 24/7 and we are very grateful to our staff who have already been working additional shifts, however we are unable to sustain 24/7 hours for a short period this week.

"We have also had great support from our partners such as CHoC to ensure that a service is still available for people in Eden. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this will cause and look forward to business as usual from Saturday.”

CHoC's out-of-hours primary care service operates between 6.30pm and 8am, but appointments must be booked in advance via 111.

The minor injuries unit will operate from 8am until 9pm today, Thursday and Friday.

Trust bosses said they have invoked closure plans to ensure appropriate measures are taken - including notifying all relevant partners, such as the North West Air Ambulance Service, Cumbria Health on Call, NHS 111 and emergency services.

Serious or life threatening conditions should be treated at A&E and by calling 999.