Children’s services at Moray’s biggest hospital have been further scaled back after it emerged just three consultants were responsible for round-the-clock care.
The department at Dr Gray’s in Elgin has been repeatedly hit by staffing blows in recent months as junior doctor recruitment problems continue to be an issue.
NHS Grampian has now revealed that “unmanageable” on-call commitments for senior and trainee staff have prompted a further change.
Last night, the blow was described as “the worst possible news” for young patients needing treatment in the region.
The changes mean there will be no specialist paediatric service at the hospital from 10pm to 8am from Monday.
Instead, children will be seen by their GP or the emergency department for assessment before a specialist in Aberdeen is contacted for advice if needed.
Hospital manager Alasdair Pattinson explained staff had put in “an incredible amount” of effort to sustain services up to now but it was now no longer sustainable.
He said: “Trainee medical staff across the hospital have been working additional and much longer shifts, as well as just three consultant paediatricians providing 24-hour care, seven days a week.
“We really have exhausted every possible option. However, this is no longer only about trainee doctor levels.
“We are now at a point where we cannot expect a very limited number of staff to safely sustain the levels of additional work they have been putting in indefinitely.”
Sue Swift, divisional manager for women and children, added: “We understand the community will be disappointed. Circumstances have necessitated this decision, but it is unavoidable.”
Last month it was announced that the children’s ward at Dr Gray’s would only be manned by nurses overnight following a member of staff leaving.
Patients arriving for treatment currently need to be assessed to see whether they can be allowed home or transferred to Aberdeen if they need admitted.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “Patient safety must come first. It’s important that Dr Gray’s management has acted quickly to put a plan in place to ensure patients continue receiving appropriate care.”
Moray MP Douglas Ross added: “This is dreadful news. This diminished service and ongoing uncertainty is unacceptable. We need to ensure that we can find a sustainable solution.”