Kids care at St John’s set to be retained

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Health experts say 24/7 children’s services should remain at St John’s Hospital as West Lothian ‘merits the retention of inpatient paediatrics’.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has recommended resident consultants in the 14-bed children’s ward overnight and urged NHS bosses to “commit to development of a clear three-to-five year strategic plan”.

The Review Team’s Report states that “the population, activity and demand for a full obstetric service in West Lothian merits the retention of inpatient paediatrics at St John’s”.

The future of a round-the-clock service has been in doubt for months after chronic staffing issues forced NHS Lothian to close it to inpatients on several occasions. This sparked campaigns by politicians and pressure groups and the recommendation now look to have saved it.

NHS Lothian board members will meet on Wednesday to agree how the recommendations can be implemented to ensure a safe, effective and sustainable service for West Lothian children.

The RCPCH report states it could take two years to implement the plan due to staffing logistics for round-the-clock care and has recommended a second option that would see the ward providing overnight inpatient care as a 24 hour ‘low acuity’ unit, which does not admit children overnight when consultants are not present.

Out of hours cover would be provided by a mixture of advanced practice nurses and medical staff, with a non-resident consultant on-call from home. This would mean only stable children could remain overnight while more serious cases would be sent to the Sick Kids overnight, as well as no admissions between 8pm and 8am.

This interim option could be put in place from the end of August while the staffing infrastructure is developed.

NHS Lothian’s Chief Officer of Acute Services Jim Crombie said: “I want to ensure that we can deliver the safest services for children across Lothian which is why we commissioned the experts at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to carry out an independent review.

“The college has made a number of recommendations following an extensive review of the service and following agreement from the board, we will discuss these with our staff to establish how they are best implemented. We are grateful to the college for their expertise and their in-depth knowledge, which allows us to see how other systems across the UK operate.”

Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop welcomed the news. She said: “This is a fantastic result for the families and young people of West Lothian.

“I was also pleased to read that the Report further calls for a Board Level Champion to chair a ‘Children’s Board’ to oversee any issues relating to children’s services in Lothian and a recommendation that NHS Lothian commit to a three to five year strategic plan for the future of St John’s inpatient paediatric service and the workforce that meets the needs of patients and includes investment in new ways of working.”