EXTREMELY sick children will not receive the treatment they need if Scotland does not recruit over 100 extra consultants, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) warned yesterday; while in Lincolnshire, a hospital’s children’s department is threatened with closure because of lack of staff.
The RCPCH estimates between 84 and 110 extra consultants will be needed over the next five years or doctors will face ‘burnout’. RCPCH asked paediatric units across the UK if they were meeting two sets of best practice standards drawn up by a panel of experts.
The College demands an increase in total of 752 Full Time Equivalent paediatric consultants to meet standards – 520-554 in England, 84-110 in Scotland, 84-91 in Wales and 30-31 in Northern Ireland. Six of Scotland’s 14 units responded, giving information on issues such as staffing and access to specialist services.
The survey revealed that they could only ‘partially’ guarantee consultant presence during peak periods on weekdays. Furthermore, at three of the six units, consultants were available for fewer than 12 hours on weekdays.
Dr Steve Turner, the RCPCH’s officer for Scotland, said the pressures on staff were unsustainable. Dr Turner said: ‘We’ve been saying for quite some time that paediatricians in Scotland are under too much pressure. We cannot carry on this way. The service needs to change to accommodate the increasing number of unwell children sent to hospital, and also the increasing complexity of many children. Units are struggling to provide specialist advice at all times and they struggle to safely staff rotas.’
Dr Carol Ewing, RCPCH vice president for health policy, added: ‘It is down to the sheer dedication of our doctors that children are being treated as safely as they possibly can on paediatric wards in the UK but the risk of “burnout” is all too real.’
Meanwhile, a children’s ward is threatened with closure at a Lincolnshire hospital due to staff shortages. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) is considering shutting the eight-bed unit at Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital from June.
Sarah Fletcher, chief executive of Healthwatch Lincolnshire said the closure threat was ‘worrying and concerning’. She said: ‘It’s really disturbing for families. You’ve got to suddenly take one child away somewhere else, possibly outside of the county as well. But if you’ve got other children left at home, how do you juggle all of that? How do you manage?’
In August 2016, the trust closed the accident and emergency unit at Grantham Hospital because of a lack of doctors. Children’s wards have already been shut down across London, with Chase Farm in north east London and Ealing in west London both losing their children’s departments, despite fierce opposition from the local communities.