Protest held over ongoing closure of vital children’s ward

St John's Hospital in Livingston. Picture: Ian Georgeson
St John's Hospital in Livingston. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Parents and carers held a protest outside a hospital yesterday over the continued closure of a children’s ward to in-patients who have been seen out of hours.

The demonstration at St John’s Hospital in Livingston called on the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian to sort out staffing issues that have led to the vital ward being closed for more than 200 days.

This has meant that more than 400 children from West Lothian have not been treated locally and have had to travel through to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. The ward, which has been closed for out of hours inpatients since July last year, was hit by similar summer shutdowns in 2012 and 2015.

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said the situation has been going on for six years and called on NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government to sort out the problem.

He said: “This demonstration today has come about because parents of children who have had to use this service are frustrated and angry that there appears to be no resolution to this problem. It has been going on for six years with no end in sight and only recently we have discovered that since 7 July a total of 414 children have had to be transferred out of hours to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. They should have been treated in their own hospital. NHS Lothian and the SNP government must know bring about a plan to end this scandal.”

The latest update comes after the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health published a second review into the service in October and warned there was no “quick fix” to the fragile rota.

The expert body also endorsed NHS Lothian’s decision to temporarily suspend inpatient services in order to maintain safe facilities for children and it said the service should only resume once the extra staff are recruited or trained.

The health board have recruited two staff since the end of 2017 and are looking to recruit more consultants.

Jacquie Campbell, Chief Officer of Acute Services, NHS Lothian, said the latest additions would not immediately solve the issues around staffing.

She addded: “We last updated in October and we are really keen families and patients know exactly what is happening in paediatric services in St John’s Hospital. This is a really positive move. We have our sixth consultant joining the team and we have made an offer to another clinician which means seven new consultant posts have been filled.”