SOUTHAMPTON's minor injury unit will be extending its opening hours to help ease pressures on the city's emergency department.

The unit based at the Royal South Hants Hospital will stay open until 11pm from Monday as part of a six-week initiative launched by health bosses.

It is hoped that the move will help ease the strain on the emergency department at Southampton General Hospital, making it more convenient for patients suffering from minor ailments such as sprains and small fractures.

Usually the unit closes at 9.30pm, but the extended hours will apply until March 31.

Dr Steve Townsend, Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, said: “We're looking at different ways to ensure that patients get the most appropriate care, at times more convenient to them, particularly over the winter months when emergency services can often face higher demand.

“The plan is that patients with minor injuries can choose to go here rather than the emergency department which will usually mean they are seen much faster and, in many cases, in a location more convenient to them.

“This also means that the staff in the emergency department will be able to focus on people who are seriously ill or injured.”