GPs offer face to face consults to Under 16s in West Lothian to help ease hospital pressure
West Lothian GP practices are to give all under 16s the option of face to face Covid assessments, in a bid to reduce the high numbers of admissions to the children’s unit at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.
The surge in admissions in September was driven by the unit being used as the primary Covid assessment area for under 16’s.
Allister Short, director of Women’s and Children’s services for NHS Lothian, gave an update on waiting times to a meeting of the St John’s Stakeholder Group earlier this week.
He said: “September was very busy on the ward due to the ward being used as a Covid assessment area.
"Anyone querying Covid would come onto the ward for assessment.
"From 1 November GPs will carry out assessment at practices with face to face appointments starting.
"Hopefully we’ll start to see a bit of a reduction in the admission numbers.”
While in some areas of paediatrics waiting times were being met within the 12 weeks target, in others they were not, with as much as 54 per cent of some outpatient appointments outstripping the 12 week target.
The biggest waiting times were in Community Child Health with 219 children, or 54 per cent waiting beyond 12 weeks.
The longest waits are predominantly for communication/Autism Spectrum Disorder formal assessment where Speech and Language Therapist availability is limited.
In paediatric surgery 51 children, or 74 per cent of total, have waited beyond the 12 week target.
Mr Short said that new clinical pathways to deliver appointments faster would help cut the waiting times, as would the slight relaxation of Covid social distancing measures which had cut the number of appointments day to day to allow for cleaning.
He added that another positive was continuing stability among staffing numbers.
Chair of the group councillor Harry Cartmill questioned why social distancing had not been relaxed within clinical settings when, in general, it has almost disappeared. He cited football match crowds as an example.
Mr Short said that he and other health professionals would rather see social distancing continuing, and added that social distancing had not been relaxed to the same extent in hospital settings because of patient vulnerability.