HOSPITAL UNIT ROW
Fears voiced over children’s ward
A mum whose little boy has a rare and life-threatening form of epilepsy has hit out at health bosses after the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital was closed for a day due to a staffing crisis.
The children’s short stay assessment unit was shut on Sunday and instead youngsters who needed care were sent to the Sick Kids in Edinburgh.
The unit has been closed to inpatients out-of-hours since the summer, but was shut entirely on Sunday in a story that has become all to familiar to parents with sick children.
Stacey Williamson from Whitburn, whose son Frankie has Dravets Syndrome, a condition that causes severe seizures that can cause brain damage, has spoken out in the past about the closure of the children’s ward, saying a delay in getting treatment for Frankie could be catastrophic.
She says adding even 40 minutes for the ambulance to get
to Edinburgh could mean brain damage caused by seizures may be more severe.
Stacey said: “Frankie’s condition is complex and they have given us assurance he’d be taken to St John’s in an emergency and stabilised, however this is not an ideal scenario if he has to be in overnight.
“Frankie has been in HDU with a cold and entering into the winter months our worry has increased.
“We were under the impression it would only be the summer but it’s December and it’s still closed. It’s not good enough.”
Children were still assessed and treated in the hospital’s Emergency Department and a paediatric consultant was available on call on Sunday. However, if a child needed to be admitted, they had to be transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
The decision was made as a result of ongoing staffing and recruitment issues which mean there are not enough doctors available to cover overnight and weekends.
Jacquie Campbell, chief officer of acute services, NHS Lothian said: “The safety of patients must be our priority and for that reason the unit did not open on Sunday.
“Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to reliably secure the levels of staffing required on Sunday to guarantee a safe service. This is the safest option for the children of West Lothian and normal service resumed on Monday.”
Politicians from across the political spectrum rounded on the health board for closing the unit that day. Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “The children’s ward has been closed to in-patients out- of- hours for over 150 days. Now we find out it will no longer assess children at the weekend because of staff shortages. This is an appalling state of affairs. Parents of young patients will be rightly furious at the failure of NHS and the SNP Government to resolve this long running staffing crisis.”
Miles Briggs, Lothians MSP and shadow health secretary for the Scottish Conservatives, added: “SNP ministers need to understand the level of anger and frustration among West Lothian families and residents at this latest closure and the ongoing issues at St John’s and want answers.
“I will continue to press the Scottish Government on this matter and call on them to support NHS Lothian as it seeks to recruit the staff required so that inpatient paediatric services are permanently available.”
SNP MSP Angela Constance said the people of West Lothian deserved a reliable service and added: “I’m extremely disappointed about the one-day closure on Sunday, which I understand was due to staff sickness, and met with NHS Lothian first thing on Monday morning to discuss the situation. They confirmed the children’s service had returned to its 8am to 8pm opening hours and that NHS Lothian remains committed to a seven-day service. The people of West Lothian need and deserve a 24/7 children’s service and I will continue to press NHS Lothian to ensure there is a sustainable service at St John’s as soon as possible.”
Concerned Stacey and Frankie