A beleaguered children’s ward will remain open around the clock after consultants agreed to plug gaps in the rota, the Evening News can reveal.
Health chiefs have decided to ensure 24-hour opening of the 14-bed paediatric unit at St John’s Hospital, in Livingston, whose future has been in doubt after staffing shortages forced it to shut its doors to inpatients in 2012 and 2015.
Top children’s doctors from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), who carried out a Lothian-wide review earlier this year, recommended a 24-hour service with a consultant present at night and one on call at St John’s.
Concerns were raised previously over whether NHS Lothian could run this system, which could cost £1 million to implement, so board members backed a temporary plan to shut the ward to inpatients from 8pm and 8am.
Now consultants have stepped up to keep the ward running around the clock from next month as they believe the part closure would be bad for staff and patients.
Jim Crombie, NHS Lothian’s acting chief executive, said: “This is clear evidence of NHS Lothian’s commitment to sustaining safe paediatrics services at St John’s Hospital.
“This has been achieved by a huge effort by the clinical teams across paediatrics, but especially at St John’s Hospital.
“I am delighted that the strategic approach, established by NHS Lothian in the summer of last year has, as we expected, provided a strong foundation for safe and effective paediatric care across Lothian.”
NHS Lothian has launched a major recruitment push to fill the rota gaps and bosses hope four of the eight vacant consultant posts will be filled by doctors who have now completed training.
Two trainee advanced nurses have also been appointed.
Campaigners welcomed the news but warned of national recruitment problems among children’s doctors.
Ellen Glass, a spokesperson for the Action to Save St John’s Hospital campaign, said: “Being without the ward would be disastrous for the people of West Lothian.
“I would be the first to congratulate them if they have got the staff but they have been trying to recruit for five years.”