Anniversary that won’t be celebrated at St John’s Hospital

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Health bosses admit they have no opening date for the children’s ward of St John’s Hospital after a one-year shutdown turned into two.

As from last July, no inpatients can be admitted to the Paediatric Ward, after NHS Lothian confessed that it does not have enough staff to provide a safe level of cover for stricken youngsters. As a result the children must be then be hospitalised in Edinburgh.

The first anniversary of the closure has sparked fresh claims that the Scottish National Party is failing young patients.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “The SNP government has been utterly complacent. People need a 24/7 children’s ward in Livingston – this has been recognised by two reports from the Royal College of Paediatrics, yet we are going backwards

“It is time for SNP ministers to finally see sense and set in motion a plan that will deliver a proper staffing model for the hospital

Meanwhile, another MSP Miles Briggs said he had written to the new Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, to seek assurances that she was committed to reinstating the 24/7 model for the ward

Mr Briggs, who is Scottish Conservative Health spokesperson, said: “I hope the new Cabinet Secretary for Health can succeed in reinstating the full time operating hours for the Children’s Ward at St. John’s Hospital,

“I am apprehensive that she will not be able to return the Children’s Ward to full time operating hours.

“And that’s because of the SNP’s mismanagement of NHS Scotland’s workforce over the last 10 years.”

The Gazette asked NHS Lothian as to what steps were being taken to re-open the ward but it soon emerged that nothing had, in fact, changed since our last enquiry a few months ago.

Jacquie Campbell, Chief Officer for Acute Service, NHS Lothian, said: “Patient safety must always be the top priority and our decision followed a detailed risk assessment and puts the safety of children and their families first.

“We are committed to increasing staffing levels and reinstating the 24/7 model when it is safe and sustainable to do so.”

Meanwhile, Ms Freeman reinforced the point that the ward simply could not open under the current circumstances – for safety’s sake alone

She continued: “NHS Lothian has given an assurance that it is committed to increasing staffing levels and reinstating the 24/7 model.

“And I recently wrote to its Acting Chief Executive to request a report on the progress made by the end of the summer.”

Meanwhile. Linlithgow MSP Fiona Hyslop said: “It is highly significant that one of the first things Jeanne Freeman did in her new role was to write to NHS Lothian instructing that they provide a progress report on this issue.

“Although progress is being made, efforts from NHS Lothian must be re-doubled. With the UK Government finally revising and relaxing the visa scheme for international doctors this may also assist with the ongoing recruitment process.

“The number of NHS Lothian consultants has increased from 625 to 924 since the SNP Government took office Clearly the international paediatric doctors shortage is still having an impact here.”