‘Shocked’ council leader condemns children’s ward closure

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West Lothian Council has condemned NHS Lothian’s move to yet again close the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital this summer.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick (pictured) has written to health minister Shona Robison MSP and NHS Lothian chairman Brian Houston seeking an urgent meeting, commenting: “I am shocked and very angry at this decision.

Because of staff shortages at the Livingston hospital admissions will cease on Friday, July 7, with no date given for when the service will be reinstated.

NHS Lothian says it “hopes” to have the service reinstated after the summer.

Councillor Fitzpatrick said: “It is unacceptable that West Lothian families are being forced to accept a cut in services at the children’s ward at St John’s once more.

“This is the third time in six years that the ward has been closed to young inpatients, forcing West Lothian families to travel into Edinburgh at what is often already a difficult time for them.

“We completely oppose any downgrade of service St John’s Hospital, for any period of time, and call on NHS Lothian to re-instate the service as soon as possible.”

He said while the council appreciates NHS Lothian’s avowed long term commitment to the ward - and the efforts by health workers to stop the closure going ahead - more was needed.

Councillor Fitzpatrick said: “A solution must be found that guarantees an all year round service on the children’s ward for West Lothian growing younger population.”

From Friday, July 7 young in-patients will not be admitted to the ward at the Livingston hospital and will be transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh instead.

The ward will continue to operate as an assessment and programmed investigation unit from Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm.

The closure has been a result of ongoing staffing and recruitment issues which mean they are not enough doctors available to cover overnight and weekends.

Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services, NHS Lothian said: “The safety of our patients must be our top priority and this is a difficult and deeply frustrating decision to make.

“If we don’t make changes now to the operating hours of the children’s ward, we run the risk of having to make an unplanned closure at a few hours notice, which would lead to the sudden diversion of patients.

“This reduction in opening hours is the safest option for the children of West Lothian.

“We are committed to reinstating the full service as soon as possible after the summer.”

The ward will continue to operate as an assessment and programmed investigation unit from Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm.