The Scottish Government has been urged to reinstate out-of-hours admissions at the children’s ward at the St John’s Hospital in Livingston.
The call was made by Labour Lothian MSP Neil Findlay exactly a year after the ward ceased out-of-hours cover.
The downgrading of the ward so that it no longer deals with patients out of hours has led to sick children undertaking a 20-mile journey to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Despite a string of national and international recruitment campaigns, NHSLothian has been unable to recruit the number of paediatric consultants needed to safely provide round-the-clock care.
As a result, the health board decided to close the ward temporarily to inpatient admissions from 7 July last year – the third such closure in five years. The paediatric day surgery, outpatient clinics and GP assessments have continued to operate normally.
A review by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said that a return to full inpatient care with out-of-hours cover remained its “preferred model” for the 14-bed children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, but stressed that ongoing staff shortages mean that “24/7 working is currently neither safe nor sustainable”.
Mr Findlay said: “The SNP government has been utterly complacent over the growing problems at St John’s. It has now been a year since the children’s ward was closed to out of hours admissions – and in that time the SNP has done nothing to improve services.
“People need a 24/7 children’s ward in Livingston 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. After 365 days, it is time for SNP ministers to finally see sense and set in motion a plan that will deliver a proper staffing model.”
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer for acute service, 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.
“We are committed to increasing staffing levels and reinstating the 24/7 model when it is safe and sustainable to do so.”
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.”