Almost a thousand children have made a 60-mile round journey from Livingston in West Lothian to Edinburgh for treatment because of the on-going closure of a ward for youngsters.
In a letter to Labour MSP Neil Findlay, SNP health minister Jeanne Freeman admitted that 954 children and their parents and carers had to travel to Edinburgh.
In the letter dated 8 October 2018 Ms Freeman also revealed that 790 of the children required admission to an inpatient bed.
Earlier this year NHS Lothian indicated that the ward could be three years from fully reopening as a 24/7 service because of a recruitment crisis.
Mr Findlay said the children have had to be transferred from St John’s to Edinburgh because of the SNP’s failure to reopen the children’s ward there.
Mr Findlay calling on Ms Freeman to apologise to families and to get the ward functioning as soon as possible, said: “By today it is likely that 1,000 children will have had to be sent to Edinburgh for treatment because of the SNP’s failure on NHS staffing.
“That’s a 1,000 families who have had to endure up to 60 miles of travel, stress, delays and expense just get their children treatment.
“That is utterly unacceptable – and still happening despite a commitment from the SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman that fully reopening the ward was her highest priority.
“Instead, families in West Lothian look set to have to endure at least 36 months of more closures and failures.
“Far too many families have had to travel past their local hospital to Edinburgh for treatment when they should have been treated in St John’s.
“SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must apologise to those families her government has failed – and work to reinstate a 24/7 service at the hospital as soon as possible.”
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services, NHS Lothian, said: “Patient safety must always be the top priority. We are committed to increasing staffing levels and reinstating the 24/7 paediatric inpatient service in St John’s Hospital when it is safe and sustainable to do so. “On 26 September 2018, we announced that we had moved a step closer to reinstating the paediatric inpatient service following the recruitment of three new trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs) to paediatric services in Lothian.
“Our recruitment drive is active and ongoing and we have just advertised two Consultants posts for St John’s Hospital, as well as up to three Trained Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) posts. The creation of a multi-disciplinary team of consultants, nurses and a greater number of ANPs will help to achieve a safe and sustainable staffing model.
“We assist with transport for any family who is travelling between West Lothian and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, including scheduled travel and taxis when needed.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The interim changes were made in the best interests of local children, to preserve patient safety.
“The Health Board has given assurances that all efforts are being made to recruit medical staff and advanced nurse practitioners to reinstate the full operation of the inpatient unit at St John’s.
“We will continue to support NHS Lothian to ensure the quickest possible reinstatement of services and the Health Secretary will continue to keep Parliament updated on progress.”s