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The Nurse Unit on campus faces possible closure this year due to the cuts the University is undertaking in NHS provision. Whilst the unit’s proposed closure is not yet confirmed, it appears from the consultation periods underway that the closure is being prepared and that the services will end in the near future.
Pete Macmillan, Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) Vice President Equality, Welfare and Diversity said: “LUSU are 100% opposed to any closure of the facility. It seems quite an irresponsible move to cut such a key service at such a key time”. LUSU presented a report to Tom Finnigan, the University’s Director of Student Based Services on September 7, the outcome of which is yet to be confirmed.
However Finnigan suggests that the closure of the Nurse Unit will ultimately result in re-investment in other areas surrounding student health. He said: “We will be discussing with LUSU the opportunity to improve areas where we do need more resources, such as supporting mental health, rather than spending money on services that duplicate ones that are already well supported by the NHS”.
In a report compiled by LUSU highlighting the views and opinions of the Students’ Union, LUSU stated “it is important to note that LUSU embraces change… but will not accept cost-cutting as the sole excuse for the removal of support services”. LUSU also expressed concerns that there is “no clear vision for reinvestment or future options and choices” as “ financial savings appear to be taking precedent over student wellbeing, a lack of investment in student support, lack of proposal for reinvestment and lack of future direction and options”.
In addition, it has been suggested that the closure of the Nurse Unit would have a significant impact upon other services in Lancaster. The GP Practice for example would be faced with an increased workload. The role of porters has been brought into question, as they have only basic first aid training, so there would be no medical facility readily available to students. LUSU maintains that this increased responsibility should not be placed on porters, particularly those accountable for the larger colleges. The burden on local services would be under greater pressure as well, particularly pharmacies and A&E services, which may unsettle many residents who often use these facilities.
As well as expressing their own views on the potential closure of the Nurse Unit, Pete Macmillan and a number of members of LUSU compiled a survey via Squeak, the Union’s weekly newsletter. The aim of the questionnaire was to determine student opinion about the Nurse Unit. The student opinion gathered was included in the report presented to the University, offering the opinions of 710 students, which is “one of the biggest non-incentivised surveys LUSU has conducted in recent years”.
The outcome of the questionnaire was that 58% of people asked had used the Nurses Unit before. Students were asked to rate the level of service provided by the Nurse Unit, and 83% of students rated it as excellent or good. When asked for feedback about the Nurse Unit, the most popular response was that it is “helpful”, whilst other popular responses stated that the nurses were “friendly/approachable”, that “24-hour service is invaluable” and “good advice is given”.
LUSU believes that “if the University is to retain its position in the Top Ten Universities in the UK and as one of the safest campuses in the UK then the changes that are made, should be in the interests of enhancing that reputation and set an example to other universities nationally”. However, if the University insists upon making these changes, then “LUSU insists that this does not take the form of a complete closure of the Nurse Unit, rather that the Unit operates purely during the out of hours period”.
The UMAG (University Management Advisory Group), a group which acts as a conduit to Lancaster and often takes a view on recommendations and policies such as the potential closure of the Nurse Unit, is set to become involved. According to Victoria Tyrrell, Head of the University’s Press Office, “the final decision will go to [University] Council in November, following recommendations from the UMAG in October”.