Nicola Sturgeon challenged over children's services at St John's Hospital, Livingston
Labour points out problem affects outpatients as well as inpatients
NICOLA Sturgeon has been challenged over children from West Lothian having outpatient appointments switched to Edinburgh.
At First Minister's Question, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the continuing issue of the children's ward at St John's Hospital, Livingston, being closed three nights a week because of staff shortages.
But he said: "It isn't just children who need to stay in hospital who are being let down by this government, it is outpatients too."
And he cited the case of a visually impaired 12-year-old girl, Erin from Whitburn, who had to attend regular hospital appointments.
"Ever since she was nine months old these appointments have been at St John's, Livingston but last mont Erin was sent to Edinburgh which meant in her words 'missing a whole day of school which I am not pleased about'. This change of location is unfair.
"Erin may not have a vote yet, but she does have a voice - and she deserves an answer. Will the First Minister explain to Erin why she has to miss a whole day of school and why she can't get an appointment in her local hospital?"
Ms Sturgeon said: "Separate to the work to reopen the inpatient service at St John's there is a separate strand of work to take appointments back from Edinburgh to St John's.
"My answer to Erin would be this: Of course we want her to be treated in her local hospital St John's but it is vital she gets the best possible treatment."
Ms Sturgeon said the recruitment difficulties were UK-wide and often European-wide.
"Our first responsibility and obligation is to make sure there is clinically safe and high quality care for every young person who needs it and that is what we will continue to focus on."
Mr Leonard said the real-world consequences were another winter for families with sick children travelling into Edinburgh at night with all the additional costs and additional stress which that brings.
"And now we have outpatients like Erin facing the same ordeal and all the time we have a children's hospital in Edinburgh costing £1.4m a month which cannot open its doors until October 2020.
"Does the First Minister not understand how angry parents and patients, including children, over her government's failure to protect and deliver children's health services.
"Isn't it clear the SNP cannot be trusted with the NHS?"
But Ms Sturgeon insisted the government would ensure the NHS had the investment and staff it needed.
"We won't shy away from difficult issues like recruitment challenges but the first priorit is always patient safety."
She said when the SNP came to power in 2007, a number of local hospitals including St John's were under real threat.
"Left on the track Labour had these hospital on, they probably wouldn't be open at all