Problems with the out-of-hours GP service at a Scottish hospital have worsened to the extent that there will be no cover available for nine out of 23 weekday overnights next month.
A difficulty recruiting and replacing nurses at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, has led NHS Lothian to consider temporarily pulling their unscheduled care service which runs from 6pm-8am during the week.
The Lothian Unscheduled Care Service (LUCS) has lost a further three nurses from the hospital in the last month and this has made the service unsustainable for some periods of time.
This comes on the back of 14 nurses quitting GP practice across the region in the last year, the majority from St John’s Hospital - with at least six deciding to work in the private sector.
Directors from the health board will brief MSPs on the issue affecting the GP out-of-hours service tomorrow. The children’s ward at the hospital was shut for 18 months due to staffing pressures but re-opened four nights a week last month and is set to be fully reopened in October.
READ MORE: Livingston children’s ward reopens - but only four nights a week
Local Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay described the latest move as another “bitter blow” for NHS services at Livingston.
He added: “After the farce of the government’s handling of children’s services at the St John’s hospital we are now seeing cuts to out of hours services for primary care.
“The root of this is a workforce crisis in the NHS, which is impacting on services in NHS Lothian.
“The Health Secretary needs to urgently respond to this and explain why the people of Livingston are facing more cuts on her watch.”
The health board say the out-of-hours service could close at midnight on nine occasions in May.
They say this would prevent short notice closures and a lack of staff - two negative factors that have contributed to both GPs and nurses leaving LUCS due to difficult shifts.
The care service will ensure there is a car in West Lothian available to visit frail and terminal patients at home.
READ MORE: New report uncovers management failures at NHS Lothian
Scottish Conservatives health spokesperson Miles Briggs said: “The difficulties in filling out of hours services at St. John’s hospital is due to inadequate workforce planning by SNP Ministers over the last 11 years.
“Undoubtedly St. John’s faces additional challenges in staffing of doctors and nurses. However if SNP Ministers hadn’t mismanaged our NHS workforce, including Nicola Sturgeon cutting the number of nurse training places when she was Health Secretary, we wouldn’t be in this position now.
“There simply aren’t enough nurses to properly cover the out of hours services and using GPs to cover these shifts will have cost tax payers over £30,000 this year alone.
“It is people in West Lothian who will suffer when out of hours services are closed, when they have to travel to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to be seen.”