Fears for paediatric treatment as NHS Grampian to close Moray unit

NHS GRAMPIAN IS set to close in-patient services for children from next Friday as ‘an interim safety measure’, insideMORAY has learned.

While 24-hour emergency A&E services for children will remain in place at the Moray hospital, all those who require in-patient treatment will be transferred to Aberdeen or Inverness.

And while the health authority insist that the move is a temporary one, they are giving no timescale when paediatric in-patient services will be restored. It is a move, however, that could prove devastating for parents of sick children – during July it has been confirmed that 13 children were admitted at Dr Gray’s.

Now for an indefinite period these children will from next week be sent to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary or Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for treatment, leaving parents and guardians to deal with additional stress at a time when they are having to cope with the trauma of a sick child.

In a paper seen by insideMORAY, Gary Mortimer, who is the Director of Acute Services at NHS Grampian, confirmed the decision when he said: “Our priority will always be the safe and effective care of our patients and staff have worked tirelessly over the last few months to find solutions that would enable us to continue an unaltered paediatric service at Dr Gray’s Hospital.

“Since the start of August, the entire Dr Gray’s team has trialled a new way of working that pulls our limited medical staffing resources in a different way. However, this model has relied heavily on temporary staffing, and is neither safe nor sustainable longer term. We need now to take the time to develop more robust models that ensure patient safety and resilience.”

Mr Mortimer said that it is likely to take several months to develop different models, adding: “In-patient paediatric services at Dr Gray’s will be withdrawn on an interim basis as a safety precaution.

“The 24-hour, seven-day, Emergency Department (A&E) service for paediatrics is not affected by these temporary measures. Paediatric patients who subsequently need to be admitted to hospital will be seen at either Aberdeen Royal Infirmary or Raigmore Hospital.

“Outpatient services will continue as normal. Obstetric led maternity services will also continue as normal.”

Confirming the changes were brought about by recruitment difficulties and would take effect from Friday, August 18, Mr Mortimer said: “These Interim measures have been prompted by recruitment difficulties and are not based on financial considerations. The financial resources are there to recruit staff if we are able to identify suitable candidates.”

Politicians to seek clarification and reassurance

Last night both Moray’s MP and MSP said they will talk to NHS Grampian next week to find out more on their plans.

Douglas Ross MP said: “I am extremely concerned to hear these rumours, especially following on so soon after the problems surrounding the maternity ward.

“This is another blow to the local community who rightly value the high level of paediatric care available at Dr Grays. I will be seeking clarification on the nature of these changes and the assurances given that this is a temporary measure.

“At the meeting I will also be seeking further information on how this decision was reached, what consultation was held with staff and the implication of these changes for local people.

“Clearly this move by NHS Grampian will raise significant concerns in the local community. Ensuring that children who become ill receive the best possible care as close to home as possible is a priority and I will do everything I can to ensure this service continues in Moray.

“Dr Gray’s is a valuable resource for patients in Moray and to think that poorly children might have to travel to Aberdeen for treatment that requires more than a day procedure is unacceptable.”

Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead said that he will be meeting NHS Grampian staff to discuss the situation early next week. He said: “These changes illustrate the fragility of some of our local health services due to staff shortages.

“It is vital that every effort is made to restore our paediatric services to previous levels as soon as possible to minimise the need for parents to travel to Aberdeen or elsewhere especially given the fact that we are talking about children and their families.

“I am meeting NHS staff next week to discuss the issue of attracting medical staff to Moray which is the issue at the heart of this.”