Leaders: Hospital baby emergency | 20mph pilot scheme hasn't taken off

We must take seriously claims by staff at a Scottish hospital that the level of care available to premature babies is compromised by a shortage of resources, lack of confidence and low morale.

A report has suggested a dangerous shortage of care at Scottish hospitals for premature babies
A report has suggested a dangerous shortage of care at Scottish hospitals for premature babies

When concerns were first raised about the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, they prompted the commissioning of a report which, in its draft form, highlights a series of problems that midwives and nurses believe are a threat to the level of care in the neonatal unit.

It must be said that the report is described as mixed, and there is a counter-argument from the medical team at St John’s that there are “no safety issues”. But it is to be expected that differing opinions will exist over such a contentious issue, involving a hospital 
where a children’s ward was closed to in-patients for a period last year because of staff shortages.

There may be a counter-argument to the concerns raised by midwives and nurses, but these front-line staff are the people who are best placed to judge the situation, and it is their duty to speak up if they feel that compromises are potentially life-threatening.

And the nature of their complaints show that they are not comfortable in their roles – specifically, midwives have said that they are leading resuscitation rather than supporting it. If they are unsure or unhappy with what is expected of them, the potential for confusion is a genuine risk to the welfare of newborns.

There has been an accusation that attempts were made to delay publication of the Royal College of Paediatricians’ report, to avoid damaging political consequences ahead of the Holyrood elections. At this stage, there is no evidence to back up such a claim, but whether there has been a delay or not, the findings of the report have to be addressed immediately, and resolved.

Every life is precious, young and old, but those who arrive in this world prematurely are the most vulnerable of all. We cannot fail them at the very moment they need our help the most.

Pilot hasn’t taken off

The whole point of a pilot scheme is to trial a measure that can be forced through in legislative form but in practice might not work.

On that basis, Transport Scotland’s attempt to introduce a 20mph speed limit on main roads through Scotland’s towns already looks doomed. Only one of five trials is under way, and opposition has held up initiatives in the other areas, with councillors describing the plans as “unreasonable”.

A 20mph in all built-up areas was always going to be controversial. What Transport Scotland is finding is that the reduced limit is unpopular, and therefore is not wanted.

Time to reach for reverse gear.