A CHILDREN’S ward left short-staffed after its medical trainees were withdrawn has had them restored.
Four new paediatric trainees will begin work at St John’s Hospital in Livingston later this year.
It comes after trainees’ services were withdrawn in April, despite warnings from doctors that the hospital would struggle to cope.
The move, combined with problems in recruiting consultants, led six paediatricians at the hospital to write to medical director David Farquharson to warn that they could no longer guarantee “safe and continuous care” around the clock.
The Action to Save St John’s campaign claimed the shortages showed the children’s ward was being deliberately run down – something which has always been denied by NHS Lothian.
Dr Farquharson has now confirmed that the postgraduate dean is to allocate four trainees to the St John’s children’s ward later this year.
Three were confirmed by the time of an NHS Lothian board meeting last week, with a fourth now also expected to join the staff at the West Lothian hospital.
At the meeting last Wednesday, Dr Farquharson said: “We’re still working on plans to cover June and July, and also looking at the business continuity side of things as well.
“The postgraduate dean has allocated three trainees at St John’s from August onwards.
“More trainees than expected have returned from maternity leave and out-of-programme activities and that’s why we have more trainees available.
“Just like in November, we didn’t expect that so many were going to be going on maternity leave, so we didn’t expect so many would be coming back.”
However, a nationwide shortage of paediatricians means health chiefs have struggled to recruit the eight new paediatric consultants they need.
Gordon Beurskens, of the Action to Save St John’s Hospital party, said he was still worried about the long-term reliability of children’s services at the hospital.
He said: “We are delighted by this news, but we remain concerned about the inability of the board to fill consultant posts at St John’s.
“In the modern NHS, services should be consultant-led. That is, after all, what the board publicised as the better alternative to trainees.
“It is abundantly clear that this good news comes as a result of good luck rather than good management planning.
“More has to be done to ensure that the paediatric rotas for consultant and trainee cover are robust enough to maintain the 24/7 service at St John’s.
“Without those consultants, which the board have been unable to recruit, a reduced paediatric service at St John’s may still be inevitable.”
Dr Farquharson said today: “We remain committed to maintaining paediatric services and we have been working closely with professor Bill Reid, dean of postgraduate medicine at NHS Education for Scotland (south east region).
“We have already recruited one paediatric consultant to NHS Lothian and we are actively recruiting more.
“Dates have been organised for interview and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to boost our team.”