Kids ward should not be ‘political football’

St John's Hospital in Livingston
St John's Hospital in Livingston
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The children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston could face closure or reduction in hours, but results of the review will not be made public until June.

Crisis hit over the summer months when staffing levels caused the ward to partially close. It led to calls for an immediate examination into children’s health care across NHS Lothian.

The Action to Save St John’s group said it was a “cover-up” and questioned why local politicians were not “shouting about this”.

A spokesman for the group said: “This is probably the most contentious decision for St John’s in almost a decade. Conveniently, NHS Lothian has decided that the report, which in all probability spells the end of our children’s ward, will only be published after the election in May. Yet the report will be ready by March. It could have, and should have, been ready much earlier.

“We will not lie down and allow politicians and unelected boards to remove our services without a fight.”

He said the most likely outcome will be the downgrading of services to 9am-5pm at the children’s ward and that this would be done on the quiet and “by the back door”.

Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop said the review was needed to create a sustainable plan for all of the Lothians but that it must ensure full children’s services at St John’s.

She said: “I intend to meet with the Review Group and will be making the strong case that the future of paediatric services across the Lothians will require a 24/7 children’s ward at St John’s.

“Critics of the Scottish Government would be the first to complain if Scottish Ministers were to use the results of any review for political advantage during the restricted election period, so it is vital that no-one has the opportunity to use such an important review as a political football.”

Neil Findlay, MSP for Lothian, said there were “grave concerns” over the future of St John’s and if the review does result in a downgrade of services, people have a right to know about it before 
the election.

He said: “It was originally said the review would report within the current financial year. Now, mysteriously, the review will report just a few days after the election.

“This is wrong. The people in West Lothian should be able to make an informed choice at the next election and our local SNP representatives should be judged on their record, and that of the Government they support.”

Fiona Hyslop added that the reason there was a delay in starting the review was down to the team conducting the work.

She said: “The First Minister said in the Scottish Parliament chamber in November that she has been advised by NHS Lothian that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has advised that not all of the royal college’s independent expert review team will be able to begin their work before January.

“It was originally envisaged that the work would begin in November. The Government supports whatever steps need to be taken to ensure that a full and thorough review is carried out.”

Dr David Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “We commissioned the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to perform this expert, independent review of services for children in Lothian. The review is now underway and it would be highly inappropriate to speculate on the outcomes.

“In discussion with them about realistic timescales, we recognised it would not be possible for the report to be completed, considered and published before Scottish Parliament is dissolved on March 23 when we enter the pre-election period.

“As a result the report will be formally presented at the NHS Lothian public board meeting in early June.”

The Action to Save St John’s group is urging people to send their views on this issue to local MSPs. For more information about the group visit www.facebook.com/
assjhparty.