Backup plan needed for Boston children’s ward closure

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Councillors asked health bosses for more detail on a backup plan for Boston Pilgrim’s children’s ward which could see the service temporarily closed.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust placed the paediatrics ward at the hospital under review back in April after concerns over severe staffing shortages.

Since then, members of the trust’s executive board have voted to continue maintaining the service as it is but with a contingency plan in place, which would see a temporary closure of the inpatient ward.

But councillors on the Health Scrutiny Panel for Lincolnshire have said that more detail is needed on what the backup plan would be should it have to be implemented.

Chair of the committee, Carl Macey, said that the plan, known as option three, needs more “meat on the bones”.

“I think we are a lot better than we were when the trust first made the announcement a couple of months ago in regards to the paediatric service,” he said.

“We have now got an extension to around August time before any changes are likely to happen.

“At this moment in time, option three has been spoken about quite considerably.

“But there just does not seem to be anything there at this moment in time to give us any sort of solution or happiness to say that it is going to be a viable option.”

Neill Hepburn, medical director at ULHT, and Michelle Rhodes, director of nursing.

Representatives from ULHT said that their “primary effort” is to keep the service going.

Dr Neill Hepburn, medical director at the trust, said that option three would only be put in place if the trust’s preferred plan to keep the ward open failed.

“First of all, we want to maintain the service,” he said.

“The contingency plan is what would happen if it all went wrong and we are working to obtain additional staff.

“But there are some things that we need to do that we can’t delay, such as refurbishing some of the buildings at Lincoln County so that we can increase the size of the maternity unit.

“We may never implement them, but they need to be done and there are certain things that just take time.”

He added that despite the fact that the plan may never be used, the trust needs to make preparations.

Meanwhile, Dr Hepburn said that talks are ongoing with Health Education East Midlands about devising a model to keep junior doctors working at Boston Pilgrim.

The education body recently said that they want to see the doctors moved from Boston to elsewhere within the trust.

Members of the executive board are now devising a back up plan for the service in case there is not enough staff to cover the rota on the ward as of August 1.

ULHT said it has had a long-standing shortage of children’s doctors and nurses and has carried out extensive worldwide recruitment, which is ongoing and includes working with agencies and using agency staff to fill shifts.

A contingency plan for the service is expected to be presented to the trust’s next board meeting on June 29.

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