Guest column: Closing children’s ward was the only safe option

Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust says staff shortages made it impossible to operate the children's ward at Bassetlaw safely 24 hours a day
Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust says staff shortages made it impossible to operate the children's ward at Bassetlaw safely 24 hours a day

In late January, the decision was made to close the children’s ward (known as A3) at Bassetlaw hospital to overnight admissions.

The trust made this change because of staff shortages which has made it impossible to safely operate the ward 24 hours a day.

These problems have been affecting the service for a number of months, and despite numerous efforts to recruit, these vacancies have remained unfilled.

To put this in to context, the ward has six nursing vacancies out of a staffing complement of 12 and three vacancies on the junior doctor rota.

With safety as the paramount priority, children who require an overnight stay will be admitted to Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI).

We are not expecting any children to transfer to Sheffield, or further afield, unless it is to meet their clinical needs.

Although the overnight service cannot be maintained, acute paediatrics have been enhanced and will be available from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week.

To improve the current daytime service, the trust is maximising opening times and will be providing special, urgent Outpatient Clinics with senior paediatricians available on site 24/7 to support children’s care.

These changes also ensure that medical support for children attending the emergency department is maintained, and we ask parents to bring their young ones to Bassetlaw hospital at any time if they need urgent medical help.

Once embedded, we expect to transfer no more than six children a week to Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

In the initial implementation week we have relocated six children from the hospital’s emergency department, with a further seven from the Children’s Assessment Unit, and we expect this to reduce in the coming weeks.

Like many members of staff at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals I am a local resident, living in between Doncaster and Worksop with two children.

As chief operating officer of the trust, and as a Registered Nurse, I believe that the changes we have put in place mean we have the safest service in the current circumstances. 

We will review our position in October, and if sufficient staff are available, will return to overnight admissions.

In the meantime, we are actively trying to recruit the staff we need, and our clinical educators routinely attend recruitment fairs at universities throughout the year, promoting both of our sites to soon-to-qualify nurses.

As Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, our Worksop site remains an integral part of the trust and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future.

We are proud to serve Bassetlaw and we have only made changes to ensure we can safely treat young patients.

n David Purdue is chief operating officer at Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust