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Make St John’s a paediatric teaching hospital to halt downgrades

21 Feb 2018

Miles Choice Landscape

A major Central Belt hospital should be given teaching accreditation for paediatrics to help safeguard its future, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

The children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston has been closed to 24/7 admissions since last summer, amid fears of a gradual downgrading of the whole hospital.

Its future will be debated in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday), with opposition MSPs uniting to call for the unit to be fully reopened.

Now shadow health secretary Miles Briggs has said the West Lothian hospital could become a teaching facility for paediatrics.

That would allow trainee medics to work at the hospital, replenishing staffing levels and allowing local youngsters to be seen there instead of travelling more than 20 miles into Edinburgh.

It would also help restore the reputation of a hospital that’s been subjected to a number of cuts in recent years, back to a respected acute hospital.

The Lothians MSP will now write to the NHS Scotland Deanery asking them to consider including St John’s in the teaching set up for paediatrics.

While St John’s is a teaching hospital for other areas, trainee paediatricians in the south east of Scotland must be based at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the Sick Kids Hospital or the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.

In his speech tomorrow, Mr Briggs will also point to information showing an increase in the number of ambulance journeys from St John’s to the Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh.

In June 2017, the month during which the ward closed, there were 11 journeys, according to the Freedom of Information request.

But by August, the number had trebled to 37.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said:

“We need to see a long-term approach that raises the profile and the prestige not just of paediatric services at St John’s, but the whole hospital.

“That’s why I’m calling on the Scotland Deanery to launch a review of where paediatric training takes place to ensure trainee medics can choose to undertake part or all of their training in Livingston.

“We need this flexibility, which would allow St John’s to work much more closely with the new Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh.

“The move could raise the status of children’s services at St John’s, and allow trainees to work in a great environment with children and families from West Lothian.

“Under the SNP government the downgrade of St John’s Hospital has been relentless, despite Nicola Sturgeon promising that wouldn’t be the case.

“Restoring the children’s ward in this way would help reverse that, and ensure a major acute hospital remains and thrives in the area.”