Nicola Sturgeon has called for a speedy solution to the recruitment issues which have led to the suspension of overnight admissions to the children’s ward at Dr Gray’s Hospital.
The first minister intervened yesterday after Moray MSP Richard Lochhead asked her to “urgently investigate” ways to alleviate the pressure on local health services.
He warned that the issue was having a knock-on impact on already-stretched ambulance crews who are now having to transfer more youngsters to Aberdeen for treatment.
Just three consultants are responsible for round-the-clock care at the paediatric department at Dr Gray’s in Elgin, with recruitment problems meaning admissions have been suspended from 10pm to 8am.
Mr Lochhead, the local SNP MSP, called for a solution at first minister’s questions in Holyrood yesterday.
He said: “It means that families face their children potentially being transferred all the way to Aberdeen for treatment, and this places more pressure on local ambulance crews who are awaiting on an additional emergency ambulance and crew for Elgin.
“Indeed, I’m told that on Monday evening a crew had to hang about for four hours waiting for a vehicle to return to Moray so they could take over and answer local calls.
“So will the first minister please urgently investigate what more solutions can be put in place to attract paediatricians to work in more northerly based hospitals, and doctors also to places like Dr Gray’s, where they are urgently required?”
Responding, Ms Sturgeon said: “NHS Grampian has been working and continues to work to fill posts within its paediatric services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, and while it seeks to build on the three paediatric consultants who currently work in the hospital, the board has reluctantly introduced a temporary model on safety grounds, and I would stress that the grounds for that are to do with the safety of children.”
She added: “The board is doing everything it can to fill vacancies and is continuing to review its staffing model.
“I think Richard Lochhead also raises important issues about the ambulance service, which I’ll ask the health secretary to consider in more detail and discuss with him.
“But we hope to see the situation restored to the way people want it to be at Dr Gray’s as quickly as possible.”