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Children’s ward 24/7 care delayed due to staff shortages

St John's Hospital, West Lothian, is unable to reinstate round-the-clock services in the department.

Livingston: St John's Hospital is unable to reinstate 24/7 care in its paediatric department. Google Maps

It would be unsafe to bring back round-the-clock children’s care at a Livingston hospital due to continuing staff shortages, the health secretary has said. 

St John’s Hospital is unable to reinstate 24/7 care in its paediatric department after “extensive recruitment efforts” failed to provide safe staffing levels.

The full-time service on the children’s ward has been stopped for approximately two years and was due to resume from October.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has now confirmed this will not happen, with a Monday to Thursday inpatient service continuing instead.

There has been no revised opening date given by the Scottish Government.

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.

“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.”

Miles Briggs, a Lothian MSP and the Scottish Conservatives’ health spokesman, said: “Promises made by Jeanne Freeman and the SNP to parents and families across West Lothian have been broken.

“It is hugely disappointing that the 24/7 paediatric service at St John’s will not resume this October as scheduled and families in West Lothian will be rightly very angry.

“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.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said the announcement was a “blow” for the service.

The medical director at NHS Lothian, Dr Tracey Gillies, said: “The safety of children has and always will be the overriding priority in any decision relating to the resumption of 24/7 inpatient services in the Children’s Ward in St John’s.

“We have made encouraging progress in moving towards a safe and sustainable out-of-hours rota and indeed last month recruited two extra consultants.

“Unfortunately, however, we have experienced some unexpected and unavoidable changes within the dynamic of the team in recent weeks.

“The rota has now been assessed and it has unanimously been decided that the service cannot safely step up from four to seven nights at this point.

“We will continue our enhanced efforts to recruit the required staff, which will allow us to fully re-open 24/7 seven days a week.

“In the meantime parents should not do anything differently and if they need access to healthcare, they should still contact their GP, out of hours services via NHS24 or go straight to accident and emergency, if required.”

The children’s ward has admitted 456 children as inpatients since March, when the four-night-a-week service came into place.

There have been 1194 admissions for medical assessments and 845 children have been seen as part of its programmed investigation service.

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