FEARS have been raised over the future of an Urgent Care Centre after a string of temporary closures.

The centre in Penrith Hospital has closed on a number of occasions with reasons like "staff shortages" cited.

Run by North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation Trust it provides a range of services, including treatment for cuts and grazes, sprains and strains, bites, stings, minor head injuries and eye problems.

Penrith Town Council, in a meeting on Monday, January 27, has approved a motion to write to the chief executive of the trust, Lyn Simpson, bring the situation to a head.

The letter states: “The town council wishes to express concern about the ongoing closures of the Penrith Hospital Urgent Treatment Centre.

"The closures which now span back over six months, were originally said to be a temporary measure due to operational issues including staffing shortages.

“Penrith Hospital appears to be struggling to return to providing full treatment facilities for the Penrith and wider Eden area.

“The Council has concerns that the ongoing temporary closures may result in the reduced hours service becoming the normal service level and lead to downgrading of the services at the hospital in the longer term."

Councillor Jonathan Davies, from Penrith Town Council, who put forward the motion, said: "They have had a number of closures which started last August.

"Staffing has been as an ongoing problem and I'm quite concerned. I believe the downgrading of the hospital could lead to it being closed permanently. We all need to agree that we need to be protect this service."

A spokesperson for the trust said: "Staffing shortages and operational pressures have meant that the Trust has had to temporarily close the walk-in facility of the Urgent Treatment Centre overnight on a number of occasions.

"During these times the Trust has prioritised ensuring the walk-in facility remains open during the busiest periods which is the day time hours.

"However the Trust understands that the closures have caused confusion and in some cases frustration and we apologise.

"We have successfully recruited more staff, and we have also made permanent some fixed term staff as well as agreeing an increase in working hours with other staff. This has brought some stability however it has not fully filled the vacancy gap.

"The situation remains fragile in relation to how flexible the staffing can be to cover unexpected absences such as sickness.

"We have a national nursing shortage and as such attracting staff for such a small unit with limited development opportunities remains hard."