Over 1000 youngsters make ambulance journey from Livingston to Edinburgh because of closed children's ward

Still no sign of when St John's Hospital will reopen 24/7

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 6:00 am
The children's ward is currently open four nights a week, Monday-Thursday

MORE than 1000 children have been transported by ambulance from St John’s Hospital Livingston to Edinburgh’s Sick Kids in the past three years because the West Lothian hospital’s children’s ward does not operate round the clock.

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws show 312 youngsters made the trip in 2017, 394 in 2018 and 305 so far this year - a total of 1011.

The 24/7 service at St John’s children’s ward was suspended in July 2017 but there had been frequent weekend closures in the months before that.

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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman says she is taking action on suggestions from parents

The ward, currently open four nights a week, was due to resume 24/7 operation in October but Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced with days to go that it would be unsafe to reinstate full-time opening because of continuing staffing problems.

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “The continued closure of St John’s hospital children’s ward to 24/7 admissions is completely unacceptable for sick children and their parents in West Lothian.

“Worried parents have no option but to take a 20 mile trip into Edinburgh for their child to be cared for, when previously this service was available on their doorstep. “SNP ministers have failed to implement an effective workforce plan, so that the children’s ward can be opened 24/7 and prevent sick kids having to travel to Edinburgh for treatment. The failure to fully reopen the ward has also put increased pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service who are particularly busy during the winter months.”

Ms Freeman said patient safety was always the top concern. “Despite extensive recruitment efforts, the unanimous clinical view is that it has not been possible to safely reinstate the full 24/7 service.”

“I recently met parents to listen to their concerns and am taking action on a number of suggestions that were made to further improve the service. I remain absolutely committed to the full 24/7 reinstatement of the service.”

Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “We have made encouraging progress in moving towards a safe and sustainable out-of-hours rota, but are continuing our enhanced efforts to recruit the required staff which will allow us to fully re-open 24/7.”

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