The short-stay paediatric assessment unit (SSPAU) at The Friarage Hospital will close on weekends from 1 April, following a 12-month review of the service.
Currently, the children’s unit opens 10am to 8pm Mondays to Fridays and 10am to 7pm on weekends and Bank Holidays. But from 1 April 2016, the new opening times will be 9am to 7pm on weekdays with the unit closed on Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.
Doctors have stressed the impact on patients will be minimal as weekends are very quiet with an average attendance of below four children a day. On some occasions no children have attended the unit at all.
“While we appreciate any change to services causes anxiety it must be considered in the context that fewer children need to come into hospital and can be treated more appropriately by GPs. This demonstrates improvements in children’s health although those that need care often need the facilities of an inpatient unit.”
Fran Toller, operations director of community care
Consultant paediatrician Dr Ginny Birrell said: “Currently we’re not making the best use of the skills or time of staff working on the short-stay paediatric assessment unit at weekends based on the numbers of children we see.”
Fran Toller, Operations Director of Community Care, added: “While we appreciate any change to services causes anxiety it must be considered in the context that fewer children need to come into hospital and can be treated more appropriately by GPs. This demonstrates improvements in children’s health although those that need care often need the facilities of an inpatient unit.”
Other children’s services provided by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust include Children’s outpatient services, planned day surgery and community paediatric nursing services.
The SSPAU opened in October 2014 following changes to children’s and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital and assesses, observes and treats children and young people referred by their GP or who have an open-access arrangement.
Once the unit was operational, it was agreed with Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group that the trust would review its activity over the course of the year and between October 2014 and September 2015, 1,666 children received care on the unit (planned and non-planned) alongside 944 ward attenders.
Following the review, a recommendation was made to the CCG to change the opening times on Mondays to Fridays for the service to be open when needed and to close on weekends and this was supported.
The public are also reminded that as there are no children’s doctors or inpatient facilities in the Friarage overnight, children who are unwell should be seen by their GP in the first instance rather than going to the hospital’s accident and emergency department, although staff will continue to treat children with minor injuries.
As is the case now, if a child is unwell and needs medical attention there are a number of options available such as ringing your GP, NHS 111 (out-of-hours) or getting advice from the local pharmacy. In an emergency, if a child needs urgent and immediate attention ring 999 and call an ambulance.
What happens when children are referred to the SSPAU?
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.