HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital looks set to scale down its night-time emergency service, possibly offering only minor injury treatment between midnight and 8am, in a bid to save money. Instead, people with major injuries - other than head injuries which, as now, would go to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge - might be taken straight to Cambridge or Peterborough. Or they might be taken to Hinchingbrooke, as now, for clinical decisions to be made about where, if anywhere, to send them for immediate treatment after stabilisation. Patients needing intensive or coronary care or resuscitation would still be admitted to Hinchingbrooke, whatever the final decision. Of the four options two have been ruled out - change nothing and provide nothing other than GP out of hours treatment. Two remain but no decision has yet been taken. They are a nurse-led service and a minor injury and clinical decision unit to assess patients and stabilise them before moving them elsewhere if necessary. The latter will have less impact and is believed to be the favoured option. In either case, intensive care and emergency coronary care beds would be retained for patients taken seriously ill in the night. The scale-down would apply to injury and major trauma. But the hospital stresses that an average of only 10 patients are treated in A&E overnight and many of those have only minor injuries. But there would be savings in not having fully-staffed orthopaedic teams, for example, on duty in case they are needed. Scaling down of A&E is one of the many reviews going on that have fuelled the Hinchingbrooke rumour-machine, which is working overtime to conjure all manner of doomsday scenarios. In the face of that the hospital's managers this week moved to reassure staff and patients (Open letter on Page 1). The crisis stems from Department of Health demands that the hospital trust not only breaks even month-by-month but that it also repays a £6.5million deficit on its £70million-plus budget by next April. The trust aims to reduce paybill costs by 10 per cent - £5.1million - and save a further £1.9million on other spending. The trust also plays in a target of £2.6million additional income, making a total savings target of £9.6million. This has led to the likelihood of up to 200 compulsory redundancies on top of money-saving changes in the way the hospital operates. It is uncertainty about the outcome of those reviews and their impact on patient services that have fuelled the speculation. But the ambulance service said whatever decision Hinchingbrooke took could stretch resources to the extent that the current level of cover could not continue to be provided in Huntingdonshire without deploying additional vehicles and crews overnight.