Ongoing staffing issues requires continuation of night closure of Bassetlaw Hospital’s Children’s Ward

Following a period of review, NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) are recommending that the children’s ward (A3)…

Following a period of review, NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) are recommending that the children’s ward (A3) at Bassetlaw Hospital remain closed to overnight admissions. The closure will continue whilst work takes place with partners across the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Accountable Care System to identify possible regional solutions for issues such as recruitment.

Due to significant staffing issues, in January of this year the decision was taken, between the Commissioner and the Trust, to close Ward A3 to overnight admissions from 7pm each night. This action was taken to ensure the safety of local children coming to the hospital in need of inpatient care and treatment. Later this month both organisations will recommend that the service remains closed overnight to the CCG’s Governing Body and the Health Scrutiny Committee.

Since the revised service model was introduced in January, youngsters needing inpatient care have been transferred, via private ambulance, to Doncaster Royal Infirmary – something which continues to be jointly commissioned by both organisations. On average the number of transfers has been around 12 a week. This was higher than originally thought but is a result of doctors and other trained medical staff ensuring all patients are subject to the appropriate care, treatment and checks before a safe discharge.

As part of the changes, paediatric day services have been enhanced, with the Emergency Department continuing to see patients and offering necessary treatment 24/7 with support from on-site Paediatricians. Mr Sewa Singh, Medical Director at DBTH, said: “It is our duty to ensure that local people receive the best and safest care possible. Throughout the past nine months we have worked to a revised model, which has proven to be the safest and most effective way of treating local children in the face of staffing issues.”

“It is important to remember that Bassetlaw Hospital remains the place to take your child if you need urgent medical help. The Emergency Department is available 24/7 and retains the necessary skills to offer treatment to those who need it, with specialist children’s doctors and nurses available at all times.”

Since temporarily closing the service to inpatient admissions, the Trust has worked to recruit the required number of specialist nursing staff to safely operate the service.

Richard Parker, Chief Executive and former Chief Nurse of the Trust said: “Since January we have listened to the local communities’ concerns about the overnight closure of Ward A3, and we have been working extremely hard in order to try and attract the staff necessary to re-open the ward overnight.

“Unfortunately, despite receiving some expressions of interest for positions when we have tried to recruit, the situation remains unimproved.  The challenges we are facing in recruiting paediatric staff is part of a wider national picture. It is estimated that there are nearly 40,000 registered nursing vacancies in England, with many of the vacancies in specialist care, including children’s nursing”

“We have to be open and honest with our local communities that this is no longer a temporary problem and together with the CCG we must take action to make permanent, stable arrangements, to ensure a quality, safe and consistent service, particularly as winter approaches.”

Idris Griffiths, Chief Officer at NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “As the commissioner of health care services in Bassetlaw we acknowledge that recruiting skilled staff with appropriate training remains challenging for the Trust to provide the service we would like to offer our local community.

“With no quick-fix available, the CCG must ensure that we have a quality, safe and consistent model of care that will benefit young people in Bassetlaw. The model of care being provided is in line with Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health guidance, and has proved effective and safe over the past nine months.

“We will continue to work with the Health Scrutiny Committee, Bassetlaw District Councillors and local parents to ensure we offer the best and safest possible paediatric services for local people.”

The children’s ward remains open from 8am to 10pm each and every day, including weekends and all public holidays, for assessment and treatment. Both the CCG and Trust will be seeking independent, specialist, advice on the service in the coming months to consider whether the current model can be improved in anyway.

The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Accountable Care System is a partnership of 25 organisations responsible for looking after the health and care of the 1.5 million people living in Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. It is a partnership of 18 NHS organisations, six local authorities and key voluntary sector and independent partners in the region.