Boston

Boston children’s and maternity services safe, for now

The trust which manages hospitals in Lincolnshire has agreed to maintain paediatric and maternity services at Boston Pilgrim hospital, for now.

Severe staffing shortages were blamed for proposals that put the services at risk of temporary closure back in April.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust said it did not have enough middle grade doctors to run the service full and safely.

Recruitment efforts are still ongoing.

The trust’s board heard on Friday, June 29 that the hospital would run an ‘interim model’ for the service from August 1, meaning the majority of women and children admitted to Pilgrim would continue to be seen and assessed there.

It will be run with the back-up of short-term agency staff, many on occasional shifts, but funding has also been approved for two additional locum doctors.

It will also mean some services will be slightly changed and some babies and children will be transferred to other sites. 

The model will see:

  • Outpatient clinics continuing at Pilgrim
  • Pilgrim managing only low-risk neonatal births (above 34 weeks gestation)
  • A 24 hour children’s assessment and observation unit established on the children’s ward at Pilgrim, offering restricted periods of observation
  • Paediatric day surgery remaining at Pilgrim
  • Consultant-led maternity unit remaining at Pilgrim
  • 98% of current activity remaining at Pilgrim (the exceptions will be the transfer of small numbers of babies pre 34-weeks gestation or who require more intensive care and children needing more than 12 hours observation)

Contingency planning will continue “in case the model is not possible”.

Medical Director for ULHT, Dr Neill Hepburn, said: “The staffing situation in the Pilgrim paediatric department remains difficult, as we remain reliant on short-term agency staff, many of whom only work occasional shifts.”

He added: “This model is still a work in progress, with some of the detail yet to be worked up, but in principle it has been agreed that it will begin from August 1, running until the end of the year.

“We are continuing our efforts to recruit paediatricians, as we would like to see a full paediatric and neonatal service resumed at the hospital as soon as possible.

“We are working with our health care partners, such as Health Education England, who are committed to help us through this difficult time and are developing new ways of training for these doctors.

“But in the interim, our teams have made great progress in developing a model that allows us to continue to see and assess women and children who present to the hospital.

“There will be a small number of babies and children transferred to other sites for care under this model, notably babies born below 34 weeks gestation and any children who require extended observation.

“We understand that this will be of concern to our patients and public, but we have done our best to find a way to retain as many services at the site as possible and are hopeful that we will be able to return to a full service in future.”

A further update will be made at our Trust Board meeting on Friday, July 27.