Children’s services are ‘fragile’ says trust

Pilgrim Hospital
Pilgrim Hospital

A statement from the trust which runs the county’s hospitals has said children’s services at Pilgrim Hospital are ‘fragile’ adding they were ‘currently safe, but we may not be able to maintain all services at the hospital’.

The comments followed yesterday’s meeting of the Health Scrutiny Panel at Lincolnshire County Council in which it was revealed that concerns over staffing levels had lead to a review into children’s paediatric services across the county’s hospitals.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust Chief Executive told councillors there was particular concern at Boston Pilgrim Hospital, adding that temporary measures had been put in place to reduce the number of beds and operations had been temporarily suspended on paediatric patients due to the trust lacking enough middle grade doctors to ensure a safe service in the coming months.

A ULHT statement from Dr Neill Hepburn, Medical Director. issued following the meeting said: “United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) is concerned about the fragility of children’s services, particularly at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston.

“The service is currently safe but in the next few weeks and months we may not be able to maintain all our children’s services at Pilgrim hospital, so we are looking at a range of options to ensure children are kept safe.

“There is a national shortage of qualified children’s doctors, known as paediatricians, and children’s nurses, and ULHT is severely affected by this. Paediatric doctors and nurses cover children’s wards, A&E, maternity services, and neonatal services.”

The trust has revealed that 56 per cent of middle grade doctor posts at Pilgrim are currently unfilled and 32 per cent of children’s nurses posts are vacant.

“The reality is we don’t always have enough doctors and nurses to provide care on the children’s ward, in A&E, maternity, outpatient clinics, and the neonatal ward 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said the statement.”

A board paper covering the current situation, potential options and a preferred temporary solution is due to be published on ULHT’s website on Monday and will be discussed on Friday by trust chiefs.

The trust has moved to reassure people it has been ‘working hard’ to recruit new staff including looking internationally and using neighbouring hospitals as well as piloting new roles such as the nurse associate.

However, it says this has not led to numbers needed.

Mr Hepburn reiterated that: “No decision has yet been made on the children’s services. Over the coming days and weeks, we will engage our staff, our commissioners, neighbouring trusts and the people of Lincolnshire on all possibilities.

“I want to publicly thank our children’s workforce at Pilgrim whose efforts to maintain services have been extraordinary and for the support we’ve had from all the staff at Lincoln,” he said.