Campaigners fear a review into health care in Lothian could signal “the beginning of the end” for St. John’s Hospital in Livingston.
West Lothian Council has also spoken out against closure or reduction in services at the children’s ward, which campaigners worry the review could recommend.
John McGinty, leader of West Lothian Council, said: “We believe this review represents a very real threat to the children’s ward service as it currently exists at St John’s Hospital.
“Families around West Lothian will need to speak out to protect the ward if they do not want to see a reduced service or downgraded service.
“We will be pressing NHS Lothian to hold public meetings as part of the review process, to make sure that people in West Lothian have the chance to be heard.”
The ward came under increasing pressure during the summer months due to staffing and recruitment problems, which caused a partial closure of inpatient services.
Campaigners from the Action to Save St John’s Hospital group said NHS Lothian was using the review as a way to pass the buck on downgrading services.
Ellen Glass, a spokeswoman for the group, said: “This review is just a way out for the Lothian health board and I think it is an absolute disgrace. It’s the beginning of the end for the children’s ward.”
Anne McMillan, West Lothian Council’s executive councillor for health and care, said: “The message from West Lothian Council is simple, we believe paediatric services at St John’s should be enhanced, not reduced or downgraded.”
Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services at NHS Lothian, said the provision of safe, effective and sustainable services for patients is a priority.