Rallying call over NHS fears

Ambulance and stretcher outside St John's Hospital, Livingston.
Ambulance and stretcher outside St John's Hospital, Livingston.

Only weeks remain before the A and E department at St John’s Hospital is “downgraded” it was claimed this week.At a public meeting this week, the Action To Save St John’s Hospital group (ATSSJH) rallied the audience to contact local politicans as the plight of the A and E service, set to drastically change on August 1.

From this date, patients after 11pm will no longer be seen by a senior A&E specialist, backed up by a consultant on call, but by a junior doctor, backed up by other non-specialist doctors, and a tele link to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Gordon Beurskens of ATSSJH said: “Is this what we want from an A&E department? They will have the name, ‘A&E’ above the door, but it will not be an A&E department. A sick person will not be assessed by an A&E doctor, and if a decision can’t be made, they will be sent to the ERI or to Little France. “This is not good medical care and will have a knock on effect on health care professionals wanting to work at St John’s.”

The group accused the NHS Lothian health board of refusing to accept they were downgrading the A and E service in order to avoid a public backlash, and attacked them for not consulting with the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), who would have to transport patients.

But Dr David Farquharson, medical director at NHS Lothian, said that there was no ‘downgrade’ adding: “Consultants will now work until 11pm which is an improvement on the current situation where consultants finish around 9pm. We are currently looking at a raft of proposals that will see the service able to be safely maintained throughout the night with patients seeing no difference from the service currently provided.”

He added that NHS Lothian had nothing to discuss with the SAS, as sending patients to the ERI was only one option in a contingency plan.