THE future of Rotherham Hospital’s children’s ward could be in doubt as health bosses consider cutting the number of services across the region.
A review of the provision across South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire said the current six inpatient paediatric units could not be sustained.
There are currently 235 beds across the region, including 159 at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. Rotherham’s ward is the smallest with 12 beds, although Bassetlaw’s has been closed since January 2017 over a staffing crisis.
The ward in Rotherham is the closest to Sheffield’s acclaimed specialist centre.
The independent review was carried out for a group of 25 organisations called Health and Care Working Together in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.
It said: “National guidelines for inpatient unit staffing cannot currently be met under the status quo. Services have not changed to reflect changes in the needs of patients.
“The type of conditions that children suffer from, and the ways in which care can be provided, have changed significantly in recent years.
“Children are now much less likely to suffer from the highly infectious, acute illnesses of the past, such as polio.
“However, there has been a significant increase in children living with chronic conditions, such as asthma.”
More children will be treated in the community rather than at hospital in future, the review predicts.
“The NHS is facing enormous challenges,” said Prof Chris Welsh, director of the review team. “Within the region, demand is increasing faster than ever predicted.
“If the hospitals want to continue to provide excellent services and attract and develop the best staff, then it is my strong recommendation they work together even more closely and in ways that connect teams across all sites.”
The review concluded: “Further consideration should be given to how the system makes the best use of the paediatric consultant and mid-grade workforce, and consider a reduction in the number of inpatient units.”
Rotherham Borough Council’s response said: “We support that the children’s wards in local hospitals are proposed to stay open.
“However we have concerns that further reviews may well lead to fewer units and a concentration into a smaller number of hospitals.
“Whilst we welcome having Sheffield Children’s Hospital a centre of good practice in the area, traffic to it including parking is extremely difficult, whether you are attending as a visitor or patient.
“We would expect to see proposals brought forward which would address such practical considerations.”
Medical director Prof Des Breen, from Health and Care Working Together, said: “We asked for this review to be carried out to help us understand how we can make sure our services are of the safest and highest quality, now and in the future.
“The review team has spent ten months looking closely at hospital data, patient outcomes and experience, had in-depth conversations with the staff who run the services, the patients who use them and also the wider public.”
Consultation is expected next year and it is thought that any major changes would take up to two more years to implement.
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, declined to comment.
The impact of closing one children's ward:
- Saves - up to £58 million
- Increased ambulance travel time - 2 to 7 mins
The impact of closing two children's ward:
- Saves - up to £67 million
- Increased ambulance travel time - 6 to 16 mins
The impact of closing three children's ward:
- Saves - up to £75 million
- Increased ambulance travel time - 9 to 25 mins