Crisis averted, until the end of July anyway: health bosses reveal short-term recruitment success at Pilgrim Hospital's Children's Services

Bosses at Pilgrim Hospital have managed to push back the deadline to deal with a staffing crisis in Children's Services by a month after recruiting four '˜short-term' doctors, it was revealed at a meeting last night (Thursday).

Images from last night's ULHT Children's Services meeting. EMN-181105-100950001

The emotional and fiery meeting saw a panel of health bosses, the local MP and others face a barrage of questions, and some strong accusations, over options laid out to deal with the problem which was originally set to see the department face a crisis from the beginning of June.

However, Dr Neil Hepburn, medical director at ULHT, told those attending that the recruitment of the new doctors would push the deadline back to the end of July.

Dr Hepburn last night also noted that nurses had been given additional training to work on Children’s Ward, and said it was now ‘reasonable to mix’ them into the staff but added they don’t have the same qualifications or training as specialist nurses.

Images from last night's ULHT Children's Services meeting. EMN-181105-101432001

ULHT CEO Jan Sobieraj apologised to the situation, he added: “We are working tirelessly to maintain safe services for children at pilgrim. We want to keep paediatrics and maternity at Pilgrim.”

ULHT has proposed five options for the service, including the temporary closure of the inpatient ward but has yet to make a decision.

Other options include:

l Maintaining services as they are

Images from last night's ULHT Children's Services meeting. EMN-181105-101001001

l Closing paediatric services and retaining consultant led obstetrics and neonatology temporarily until staffing can no longer support neonatology

l Maintain current services including neonatology but stop all planned paediatric operations at both Pilgrim and Lincoln County Hospitals

l Providers across the region to cover neonatal services for Pilgrim maternity and neonatology from July 1

Last night, campaigners for SoS Pilgrim Hospital, councillors for both Boston Borough and Lincolnshire County Council and members of the public called for clearer answers about the hospital’s long-term future.

The trust says it doesn’t want to close paediatric services in Boston and is actively recruiting doctors in a bid to keep it open.

The introduction of a new medical school in Lincoln and a partnership with Lincoln University were hailed as a ‘game-changer’, but bosses admitted they had issues short and medium-term.

Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman said he was helping with getting Visas through, and was raising the issue with the ‘highest authority’ he could, Prime Minister Theresa May and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Questions were also raised over the amount of time the crisis had been on the cards (up to 10 years), how the trust was working to recruit and retain staff and why staff would want to come to work for trust which has had ‘bad PR’ and doesn’t appear to have job security, among others.

An accusation was levelled that a decision had already been made however health bosses were quick to deny that.

ULHT bosses also stressed that they had been listening to staff.

Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill summed up that key themes included need to retain & recruit sufficient permanent staff to the hospital and the issue of long travelling distances to alternatives in emergencies.

He stressed the need for the Lincs STP, which is reviewing healthcare services across the county, to be released to the public - a call backed by the local MP and others.

A spokesman for Lincs CCG said work had been ongoing on the STP following its initial release in 2016 when it was unanimously rejected by LCC. He stressed that it would go to public consultation.

For more from last night’s meeting see The Standard’s website, and reporter Daniel Jaines’ twitter account @standarddaniel