NHS Lothian has been accused of ignoring the concerns of residents as fears grow that vital paediatric services at St John’s Hospital, Livingston will be lost for good.
Services were downgraded earlier this month, with health bosses confirming they had staffing rota problems in July and August.
NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government seem unwilling to give these vital assurances that the services will return to normalJohn McGinty
They said the change would run for a period of around six weeks. However, political leaders in West Lothian have yet to receive assurances that regular services will resume.
John McGinty, leader of West Lothian Council, said that at a meeting this week, NHS Lothian representatives could not say when paediatric services would be returned to normal.
He added: “Even more worryingly, when they were asked today to rule out that the services at St John’s would be downgraded permanently, they refused to do so.
“It is simply unacceptable that NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government seem unwilling to give these vital assurances that the services will return to normal.
“NHS Lothian is ignoring the views of local people and important questions are not being answered.”
Cllr McGinty said he was now pushing for an urgent meeting on the matter with health secretary Shona Robison.
He said: “The council’s position is very clear. We opposed any reduction in service and the full service should resume as quickly as possible.”
St John’s was hit by a similar closure three years ago due to staffing problems, and in June 2013 an expert team suggested replacing the ward with a short-stay unit to assess patients and refer them on.
NHS Lothian chiefs have confirmed they will meet with ministers early next month to discuss the issue.
Dr Eddie Doyle, divisional medical director at NHS Lothian women’s and children’s services, said: “We have been clear that the safety of children must be our top priority and that this reduction in opening hours is the safest option for the time being.
“We will be meeting with our clinical teams and the Scottish Government in early August to review the delivery of the changes to the children’s inpatient service over July and to look at the sustainability of the workforce for the months ahead. All our services must be appropriately staffed without the unacceptable risk of last-minute closure.
“We have relied on our dedicated staff from St John’s and across Lothian to work additional hours to provide these services, but we cannot continue to rely indefinitely on a small number of staff working excessive hours.”