Fury at ‘downgrade’ of closure-plagued children’s ward

St John's Hospital in Livingston.
St John's Hospital in Livingston.
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The “downgrade” of a flagship children’s hospital ward must be reversed, opposition MSPs will say at Holyrood today.

The paediatric ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston has been closed to out-of-hours inpatients since July due to a shortage of staff.

This is the third shutdown in five years. The closures have forced children needing treatment to be transferred to Edinburgh.

Now Labour and the Conservatives want changes to enable graduate trainees to work at the hospital to help ease the staffing crisis and fears of future ward closures.

The issue will come under the spotlight at Holyrood today in a debate triggered by Labour Lothians MSP Neil Findlay.

He said: “The SNP government has been utterly complacent over the growing problems at St John’s.

“People need a 24/7 children’s ward in Livingston.

“This has been recognised by two reports from the Royal College of Paediatrics yet we are going backwards rather than forwards, with the ward closing to out-of-hours patients three times in the past five years. This is all down to a workforce crisis under the SNP, with not enough staff to fill the vacancies to deliver the care patients need.

“Ministers must see sense and finally set in motion a plan that will deliver a proper staffing model for the hospital so that local people get the service they deserve.”

Mr Findlay has previously written to the dean of postgraduate medicine at NHS Education for Scotland over graduate trainees being brought back into the ward as part of a sustainable staffing model.

The Conservatives want the hospital to be given teaching accreditation for paediatrics, enabling trainee medics to boost staffing on the ward.

The party’s health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Under the SNP government, the downgrade of St John’s Hospital has been relentless despite Nicola Sturgeon promising that wouldn’t be the case.

“Restoring the children’s ward in this way would help reverse that and ensure a major acute hospital remains and thrives in the area.”

Mr Briggs added that the number of ambulance journeys from St John’s to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh had risen from 11 in June last year, when the ward closed, to 37 in August. The children’s ward at St John’s was forced to close on weekends over Christmas and New Year due to a doctor shortage.