Changes to the Children’s Inpatient Services at St John’s Hospital

To ensure patient safety, NHS Lothian has taken the difficult decision to make changes to the children’s inpatient services in St John’s Hospital.

Patients will not be admitted to the children’s inpatient service at the Livingston hospital, beginning from Friday (July 3).

Over the next six weeks we will assess all possible options for a sustainable paediatric service for NHS Lothian.

The children’s ward will continue to operate as an assessment and programmed investigation unit from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

Most of the children, who currently attend the unit, will continue to be cared for as normal. They will either be referred by their GP for an urgent medical opinion or attend with a pre-arranged appointment for treatment for a variety of ailments, assessment, tests or minor day surgery.

There will be no change to maternity and neonatal services at the hospital.

The decision to implement changes was taken due to staffing and recruitment issues.

Despite national and international recruitment campaigns, it has not been possible to fill the key medical and specialist nursing posts required to help provide a safe, reliable and sustainable financial and workforce model.

The service remains heavily reliant on locum doctors, as well as staff from both the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and St John’s Hospital working additional hours.

Jim Crombie, Chief Officer of Acute Services, NHS Lothian, said:  “We have not taken this decision lightly. The safety of children must be our top priority and all our services must be appropriately staffed.

“We are fully committed to maintaining and indeed expanding the role of St John’s Hospital as one of Lothian’s three major acute hospital sites, but 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.

“We have relied on our dedicated staff from St John’s and across Lothian to work additional hours to provide these important services, but we cannot continue to rely indefinitely on a small number of staff working excessive hours.

“We must have a reliable and safe way of treating patients without that unacceptable risk of last-minute closure.

“It has not been possible to confidently secure enough staff over the summer and, following a detailed risk assessment, this reduction in opening hours is considered the safest option for children in West Lothian.”
As part of the arrangements, children who have been assessed and need to be admitted to hospital will be transferred into the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh.
Parents will not have to do anything differently, the changes will happen automatically with their GP and ambulance service.

Changes to the unit were last introduced during the summer of 2012, but despite concentrated efforts, the staffing situation has not been fully resolved.

NHS Lothian is working closely with the Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS 24, local GPs and neighbouring health boards to ensure the provision of a safe and reliable service.

Extensive public awareness activity is also being planned to ensure that families in West Lothian are aware of the temporary arrangements.


Notes to editors
Last year 3,000 children were admitted to the children’s ward, of whom 700 (23%) required an inpatient stay of 24 hours or more.