The opening times of the short-stay paediatric assessment unit (SSPAU) at the Friarage Hospital are being temporarily changed from later this week due to staffing pressures.
Currently the children’s unit opens from 10am to 10pm but from Saturday (17 January), it will close at the earlier time of 8pm – Monday to Friday – and 5pm on weekends and Bank Holidays.
Doctors have stressed the impact on patients will be minimal as very few children attend the unit after 8pm between Monday to Friday (four over a period of three months) or after 5pm on weekends.
The SSPAU opened in October 2014 following changes to children’s and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital and assesses and treats children and young people referred by their GP or who have an open-access arrangement.
Despite efforts to recruit consultants, the paediatric consultant team has a shortfall of four whole-time equivalents due to long-term sickness and vacancies.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Ginny Birrell said: “Unfortunately we can’t sustain the level of service we currently provide for children so, in the short-term, we’ve taken the decision to reduce our opening times.
“We do not anticipate these changes will impact on our patients, as very few children attend the unit after the times we’re temporarily changing to, but we will be closely monitoring the situation with a further review in April.”
Background to the short-stay paediatric assessment unit at the Friarage Hospital:
Children are referred to the short-stay paediatric assessment unit by their GP for a specialist paediatric opinion and will be assessed by a nurse first and then a doctor, usually a consultant.
A child will stay on the assessment unit for a period for time for observation before being discharged home – occasionally a child may need to be transferred to a children’s ward at another hospital for overnight care.