FEARS have been raised over the future of the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, amid claims it is only being kept going by the “goodwill” of consultants.
Concern is growing about the paediatric facility, with staff said to be worried services will eventually be transferred to the new Sick Kids hospital at Little France, which is due to open in 2016.
Health bosses have, however, dismissed the claims and insisted they are fully committed to children’s services in West Lothian.
The Stop the Downgrade Campaign (SDC) – a protest group formed to lobby for the improvement, or at least retention, of services there – released a statement putting its fears on record.
One senior staff member told the Evening News that key staff were being drafted in to fill in gaps as the service was being “run down”.
“The rota is being sustained by significant consultant cover,” the source said.
“They are participating on a registrar rota because they care deeply about the hospital.
“If even one of them was to retire and a replacement brought in, the new consultant wouldn’t have that affinity with the hospital and would have no reason to fill in those shifts.
“That would make the paediatric ward unsustainable and unsafe, and then give NHS Lothian the chance to say they can’t run it and everything will have to move to Edinburgh.
“It’s exactly what happened with emergency surgery here, and there is a feeling it could be repeated.”
As a result of the “risk” to the ward, the SDC has formally opposed the building of the new Sick Kids.
It says the projected £900 million NHS Lothian will have to pay for the hospital over 30 years would make it keener to lose facilities elsewhere.
The main worry for locals, it added, was that, should a child in West Lothian have an accident, they would have to be rushed long distances to Little France, or even to Glasgow.
Jackie Sansbury, chief operating officer for NHS Lothian, said: “We have to remember that these claims being made are by people who have stated opposition to the building of a new world-class sick children’s hospital in Edinburgh.
“That, in itself, is extremely disappointing. NHS Lothian continues to invest in children’s services at St John’s.”