About 500 sick youngsters have been diverted to a hospital 20 miles away since the controversial closure of a children’s ward, it has been revealed.
The number of children affected by the closure of the paediatric facility at St John’s Hospital in Livingston came to light in NHS Lothian board papers.
The papers also suggested that it could take between three and five years to build up the nursing levels required to reopen the unit 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
NHS Lothian shut the paediatric facility at St John’s Hospital in the summer. According to the documents, since then 500 children have been taken to the Sick Kids Hospital in the centre of Edinburgh.
The figure is the equivalent of 1.6 admissions per day.
Shadow Health Secretary Miles Briggs said: “The situation facing sick children and their parents in West Lothian is completely unacceptable. This proves the decision to close the ward to 24/7 admissions, and downgrade the hospital more generally, has had a genuinely negative impact.
“The last thing worried parents should have to face in these situations is a 20-mile trip into the centre of Scotland’s capital city when the care was previously provided on their doorstep. The SNP needs to wake up to the importance of local services. It’s not just patients in West Lothian being affected. We could see similar trends occurring in Perth and Kinross and the west of Scotland too with planned reductions there.”
He added: “This is yet more evidence that the SNP government simply isn’t up to the job of running Scotland’s NHS.”
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services, NHS Lothian said: “Patient safety must always be the top priority and our decision followed a detailed risk assessment and puts the safety of children and their families first. On average, fewer than two children are transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for admission each day.
“We are committed to increasing staffing levels in paediatric services and reinstating the 24/7 model at St John’s Hospital when it is safe and sustainable to do so.”
She added: “We will assist with transport for any family who is travelling between West Lothian and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Patient safety must always be the top priority and NHS Lothian’s decision followed a detailed risk assessment and puts the safety of children and their families first.”