Fears voiced over chil­dren’s ward

West Lothian Courier - - Front Page - Deb­bie Hall

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

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