1. ITV Report

Withybush Hospital children's unit hours could be cut

A lack of paediatric consultants may reduce the opening hours of a children's unit at Withybush Hospital by four hours a day.

75% of children referred to the children's unit are treated there, and don't need to be referred on.

Hywel Dda health board will discuss the changes to the Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit (PACU), which would see children travelling to Carmarthen for care outside the new times.

The health board say almost 75% of children referred to the hospital are treated there, and do not need to be referred on. PACU provides care for children with sudden onset of pain, high temperatures, sickness, infections, or requirements for dressings, blood tests, x-rays or scans.

Difficulties in recruiting paediatric consultants across the UK as well as the retirement of one Pembrokeshire consultant, and the maternity leave of another, have been named as reasons for the proposals.

The health board say they will reduce the impact on families as much as possible. Credit: Arno Burgi/PA Images

Doctors and nurses have been included in discussions with management at the hospital to work out how best to serve children and families in Pembrokeshire.

The health board say their attempts at recruiting new consultants, as well as locum and agency staff, has been unsuccessful, and “creates the risk of an unsafe, unreliable and fragile service.”

The plan for the PACU at Withybush Hospital is for it to continue being open for twelve hours a day, 7 days a week. However, in order to do this, Hywel Dda are considering changes to the unit’s opening hours, which would see the unit close at 6pm rather than 10pm.

It is our duty to be realistic about the availability of our consultants and to plan care around this so that it is safe, consistent and to avoid public confusion. Otherwise, we risk the event of having insufficient staff and having to close the unit in an unplanned and uncoordinated way, risking patient safety and public confidence.

– Steve Moore, Hywel Dda University Health Board

The health board say they will reduce the impact on families as much as possible.

This includes provision of a dedicated ambulance vehicle for transfers between Withybush and Glangwili hospitals, provision of funded transport schemes, help under the NHS Travel Costs scheme and, in some circumstances, vulnerable families will be provided with a paid for taxi to return home.

Most children, thankfully, don't need to see the hospital paediatric team for acute illnesses. For that relatively small proportion of children who do, their GP can refer them into hospital services. Up until 6pm, Withybush Hospital PACU will still be open. After 6pm, the Withybush Hospital emergency department team will seek advice from Glangwili Hospital paediatric team, and if a child needs admitting they will be referred to the children's ward at Glangwili Hospital, as is the case currently after 10pm.

– Dr Simon Fountain-Polley, Clinical lead for Child and Adolecent Health