SEVERE staff shortages are putting safety at risk in the children’s ward in St John’s Hospital, a group of consultants have warned health chiefs.
In a leaked letter, the six paediatric doctors told NHS Lothian they may not be able to keep running the department at the Livingston hospital.
The leak comes after it emerged the health board will stop sending paediatric trainees to the hospital in April.
NHS Lothian today admitted managers had found it “impossible” to fill posts in West Lothian.
In the letter to NHS Lothian medical director Dr David Farquharson, the consultants wrote: “We are now concerned that we cannot guarantee continuity of care and safe clinical care at all times of the day and night.”
If there are no trainees, six consultants will be left to run the ward alone and there are fears that could lead to the closure of the ward, or at least a reduction in hours.
Cutbacks could also impact on other departments as the maternity unit and the accident and emergency ward rely on staff from paediatrics to provide follow-on care.
A senior source said: “Breaking point has been reached. This won’t only affect the paediatric ward, it will have an impact across the entire hospital.”
A spokesman from campaign group Action to Save St John’s said: “Clearly the NHS has been relying on the dedication and goodwill of consultants.
“That was never sustainable, and their failure to address this issue has compounded an already difficult situation.
A joint statement from Dr Farquharson and NHS Education Scotland’s Professor Bill Reid said: “Over the past three years we have made a number of attempts to recruit paediatric doctors, however a shortage of experienced paediatricians has made it difficult to fill advertised posts.”
Despite the withdrawal of trainees, NHS Lothian says it is still committed to children’s care at the hospital
It has made changes to existing consultant staff’s job plans to include evening sessions and has increased the number of advance nurse practitioners to help provide continuity of care.