Temporary children’s ward closure is ‘trial’

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A SENIOR source has said the temporary closure of the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital is a “trial run” for the permanent relocation of the service to Edinburgh.

NHS Lothian has insisted the closure, for three weeks from July 9, is due to a short-term staffing crisis.

But the senior St John’s Hospital insider said: “There’s a very robust rota through the summer period.

“There was a Royal College review in February, and their suggestion was that paediatrics should be downgraded to a day time assessment unit.

“Over July they want to do a trial run to see what public reaction will be and whether they will get away with it from a clinical perspective.

“They’re citing this risk, but it’s nothing new. The consultant staff at St John’s have adopted the role of consultants and trainees since the trainees were withdrawn in April.

“The consultants are furious about this. They weren’t consulted and weren’t told about it until a few hours before NHS Lothian announced it.”

NHS Lothian denied the claims. Medical director Dr David Farquharson said: “We have confirmed our commitment to the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital time and time again.

“Reducing the service provided by the children’s ward on a temporary basis has been a very difficult decision to make, but the risks of not taking this action are too great.

“Staffing levels for this period in July are such that there is no back-up available should a member of the medical staff be absent at short notice.

“We have engaged with staff on this issue since we were first advised that trainees would be removed from the hospital and have worked with them to develop the contingency plans.”