Children’s inpatient services in St John’s Hospital to re-open

Children’s inpatient services in St John’s Hospital, Livingston, will re-open in the next two weeks. 

The ward will resume operating as a 24-hour round the clock service on August 17th 2015. 

NHS Lothian reluctantly made the decision to close the inpatient service for six weeks to ensure patient safety due to staffing and recruitment issues. 

The service will remain fragile, however, because of the difficulties in recruiting the required medical and specialist nursing posts, despite national and international campaigns. 

 As a result, NHS Lothian will undertake a comprehensive review of acute paediatric services across Lothian to explore other options to ensure the safest possible service and secure long term stability. 

 Jim Crombie, Chief Officer of Acute Services, NHS Lothian, said: “The ward will reopen on a 24/7 basis from the middle of August.
However, given the fragility of the out-of-hours rota and the continuing concerns about longer term sustainability, we have committed to undertake a comprehensive review of the acute paediatric service across Lothian.  
“We have been struggling for some time to recruit sufficient trained staff to cover the out-of-hours rota at St John’s Hospital and have relied heavily on a small dedicated group of staff volunteering to cover this by working additional locum shifts in addition to their normal daytime responsibilities. 
“A combination of this chronic recruitment problem, exacerbated by sick leave and maternity leave, meant that the rota was particularly vulnerable during the peak summer holiday period.  
“Reluctantly, we decided that the safest option was to close the ward overnight and at weekends for a six week period.  
“We have consulted clinical staff and government colleagues during this temporary closure, and there is a consensus that the current staffing model is not sustainable for the longer term and that a fundamental review of the acute paediatric service across Lothian is now required.  
“The review is being planned in finer detail over the coming weeks and will be carried out over the coming months.”  

From Friday 3rd July, the children’s ward has operated as an assessment and programmed investigation unit from Monday to Friday between the hours of 8am and 8pm. During this period, the alternative arrangements have worked well and have resulted, on average, in less than two patients per day requiring to be admitted to Royal Hospital for Sick Children who would otherwise have been admitted to the St John’s Hospital ward. 

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