St John's Hospital children's ward to partially reopen at night
The children's ward at a West Lothian hospital is to partially re-open to out-of-hours inpatients from 18 March.
St John's Hospital in Livingston had to stop accepting patients at night in July 2017 due to staff shortages.
This has meant young patients being sent to Edinburgh late at night for emergency treatment.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs that a 24-hour service would be restored for four days a week - Monday to Thursday - from March.
NHS Lothian aims to have staff in place to fully re-open the inpatient unit seven days a week by October 2019.
The paediatric ward at St John's has not been accepting new patients between 20:00 and 08:00 since July 2017, with children instead transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
The health secretary said reinstating a 24-hour service would require two tiers of trained staff, with consultant paediatricians and a full rota of other medical and nursing staff.
The overnight inpatient service will resume from Monday to Thursday on 18 March, with a view to weekend staffing being added by October.
Ms Freeman said this would see a "significant reduction" in the number of children who have to be sent to Edinburgh.
She said: "I know that members and the local community are anxious to know when the full 24-7 service will be reinstated, and I understand that.
"I believe the board's decision to re-open the paediatric ward for 24 hours four nights a week is welcome, and I hope it provides assurance to members and families that the full reinstatement of the inpatient service is on track to happen in October.
"The board's chief executive has sought to assure me that reinstatement of the full 24-7 service has the full commitment of the board and will continue to receive the highest level of priority."
Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said local families in West Lothian would "rightly be cynical" about the announcement, claiming there had been "repeated assurances and empty words" from the government in the past.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay gave the announcement a "cautious welcome", but said many families would still face the stress of travelling to Edinburgh at night until the ward fully reopens in October.