24/7 re-opening of children's ward at St John's Hospital Livingston called off

PLANS to restore a full-time service at the children's ward in St John's Hospital in Livingston next month have been called off because of continuing problems over staffing.

Friday, 27th September 2019, 3:29 pm
The children's ward was due to reopen 24/7 from October

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman today said it was "not possible" to reopen the ward 24/7 from October as intended.

But she insisted the Scottish Government remained committed to reinstating round-the-clock opening and pledged that NHS Lothian would continue in their efforts to recruit the required number of staff.

The children's ward was shut for 18 months due to staffing pressures but re-opened four nights a week in March and was set to be fully reopened in October. No new date has been given for when the ward could reopen 24/7.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has not named a fresh date for the opening.

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In a statement, Ms Freeman said: “Patient safety is always our main concern and I regret that, despite extensive recruitment efforts, the unanimous clinical view is that it is not possible to safely reinstate the full 24/7 service at St John’s in Livingston from October.

“The inpatient service, which re-opened in March between Mondays and Thursdays, will continue until full 24/7 services are reinstated.

”I fully appreciate this will be disappointing for local people but I’m sure everyone will understand the safety of patients must be our overriding priority.

“I remain absolutely committed to the full 24/7 reinstatement of the service and know that NHS Lothian will continue their recruitment efforts to make sure they can deliver on the clear commitments they have made to parents and children and the staff at St John's.”

Ms Freeman said NHS Lothian has been "reasonably successful" in recruiting additional consultants and Advanced Paediatric Nurse Practitioners, there had been an issue with staff leaving their post for various reasons, including personal circumstances and decisions to move on to other posts.

"From October, 40 out of hours shifts require cover per month and only 32 can currently be covered."

Tory health spokesman and Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said families in West Lothian would be "rightly very angry" at the announcement.

He said: “Hospitals across Scotland have a shortage of medical professional which leads to the closure of wards and waiting times increasing.

“The lack of workforce management by SNP Ministers over the last 12 years has been their single biggest failing running our health service.

“Retention of doctors and nurses is more important than ever which is why Scottish Conservatives have put forward a range of measures to look after those who look after us.”

Almond Valley SNP MSP Angela Constance also voice he regret at the delay. She said: “Like all West Lothian parents I am deeply disappointed and as the constituency MSP I will continue to press both the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian to put their shoulder is to the wheel to ensure our much loved children’s ward returns to 24/7 service as soon as possible. The ward will remain open to inpatients from Monday to Thursday and the Health Secretary has confirmed to me her absolute commitment to the reinstatement of a 24/7 service.

"This is also the commitment NHS Lothian have made to parents and their children and I want to see NHS Lothian at the most senior level step up to the plate and provide far more visible leadership on children’s health services.

"As well as the return of a 24/7 children’s Ward I am also calling for more children’s services to be delivered locally as St John’s Hospital is an asset not just to West Lothian but across the region. I am actively pursuing this with the Health Secretary."