St John’s Hospital kids’ ward to remain 24-hour service

St John's Hospital. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

St John's Hospital. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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A STRUGGLING children’s ward will not be downgraded after paediatric experts recommended round-the-clock care should continue for the next five years, the Evening News can reveal.

The future of the 14-bed children’s ward at St John’s Hospital, Livingston, has been in doubt after chronic staffing issues forced NHS Lothian to close it to inpatients on a number of occasions.

Experts from the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health (RCPCH), who were parachuted in to assess children’s services across Lothian, have urged NHS chiefs to “commit to development of a clear three-to-five year strategic plan” for the ward.

Health bosses will be asked to back a proposal for a 24-hour service – with one senior consultant on site overnight and one on call – at a board meeting next week.

Rotas will be drawn up which would see Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Sick Kids consultants also cover St John’s, while senior nurses would be drafted in to plug gaps.

However, a temporary measure could be implemented as early as August where only ‘stable’ children can remain overnight, as RCPCH warned it could take two years for the board to recruit enough staff to run the ward round-the-clock.

Very sick children would be sent to the Sick Kids overnight and there would be no admissions between 8pm and 8am.

Jim Crombie, NHS Lothian chief officer for acute care, said: “As we fully expected, the review team reflected the concerns and aspirations shared by staff and have been able to identify areas where we can make improvements to ensure we continue to deliver high quality person-centred care.

“We have a number of recommendations, in relation to recruitment, changing working patterns and fostering closer relations between departments, and we now need to discuss these with our staff, who are pivotal in moving forward.”

Campaigners raised fears earlier this week that the service could move to a 9am-to-5pm model but NHS Lothian has ruled that out.

Miles Briggs, Tory health spokesman, said: “I think this is a welcome step forward for staff and patients throughout West Lothian.

“The issue has been that we don’t have a 24-hour service available and if that is what the health board will be approving then that will put a lot of concerns to bed. The key issue has always been staffing and we are already aware of pressures across Lothian and Scotland in terms of workforce planning.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com