Ward will partially re-open in March

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A surprise announcement by the Scottish Government has turned round the fortunes of the shut-down children’s ward at St John’s hospital.

For NHS Lothian has told Holyrood that the Livingston-based facility will operate on a 24-hour-basis, four days a week from Monday, March 18.

And health bosses have stated that this is with a view to having full 24/7 service being restored by October.

The ward has not operated an inpatient service since July 2016 in a move that sparked uproar across West Lothian, as sick children were forced to seek treatment in Edinburgh.

It was stressed that there were not enough staff in place for the ward to operate safely.

Now three trainee Advanced Nurse Practitioners have been appointed, meaning a partial re-opening can finally go ahead.

On Tuesday, Health minister Jeane Freeman said: “The board’s chief executive has sought to assure me that reinstatement of the full 24/7 paediatric service has the full commitment of the board and will continue to receive the highest level of priority. That remains, my commitment.”

Dr Tracey Gillies, Medical Director, NHS Lothian, said: “We have always said that we could only restore the full service when it was safe and sustainable to do so and that has been our priority throughout.

“We have conducted rigorous assessments of the new model and we know it will be able to support this short-term approach, until the new additional members of the team start in autumn.”

The move has been welcomed by Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop. She said: “This will give the community and parents in my constituency peace of mind.”

The view was echoed by West Lothian Council, which had actively campaigned for the re-opening.

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “I cautiously welcome this but in the meantime, children will still have to travel to Edinburgh three days a week, meaning that stress on families will continue.

“This proposal must be sustainable and in the best interests of patients.”