Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

St John's Hospital children's ward to close to in-patients

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The children's ward at St John's Hospital in Livingston is to close to inpatients over the summer as a result of staff shortages.

The ward, which has been shut on previous occasions, is to close to in-patients from 7 July.

Children will be assessed and treated in the A&E department at night and at the weekends. The ward will operate on an assessment basis during the week.

NHS Lothian said the closure was not permanent.

Children who to be need admitted will be transferred to Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Jacquie Campbell, NHS Lothian's chief officer of acute services, said: "The safety of our patients must be our top priority and this is a difficult and deeply frustrating decision to have to make.

"I would again emphasise our on-going commitment to St John's Hospital and the children's ward.

"If we don't make changes now to the operating hours of the children's ward, we run the risk of having to make an unplanned closure at a few hours notice, which would lead to the sudden diversion of patients.

"This reduction in opening hours is the safest option for the children of West Lothian.

"We are committed to reinstating the full service as soon as possible after the summer."

'Safe and sustainable'

Last year, a study by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) recommended the ward be retained after previous temporary closures for the same reason.

Lawrence Fitzpatrick, West Lothian Council leader, said: "I am shocked and very angry at this decision. It is unacceptable that West Lothian families are being forced to accept a cut in services at the children's ward at St John's once more.

"This is the third time in six years that the ward has been closed to young inpatients, forcing West Lothian families to travel into Edinburgh at what is often already a difficult time for them."

Health Secretary Shona Robison said she has written to the health board "to emphasise the importance I attach to early reinstatement of this vital service".

She said: "NHS Lothian has assured me they will engage again with the Royal College of Paediatricians to identify solutions for sustainable services for patients. The board has confirmed they will reinstate a full service as soon as possible after the summer.

"The chief medical officer and the Scottish government's director of performance will keep progress under review over the coming weeks.

"We are continuing to work with NHS Lothian to ensure the services on offer at the St John's in-patient paediatric ward remains safe and sustainable in the long-term."

Opposition parties said local residents would be "furious" at the latest closure.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said: "This is another downgrade at a hospital the SNP government used to say it was committed to.

"St John's caters for a huge population centre and is a greatly-appreciated acute hospital. But this decision damages that reputation, and many will be concerned more cuts are to come."

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: "Nicola Sturgeon promised to support the retention of these services. She has clearly broken that promise.

"It is simply not good enough - the SNP Government and NHS have once again failed to deliver on their promises. Scottish Labour will fight this closure."

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