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Doctor’s fears for youngsters
12:50pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 in News
BURY’S Fairfield Hospital is to keep its children’s observation and assessment unit closed until the end of this month.
But there are fears that the move is “dangerous” because there is no paediatrician at the hospital during the night.
One doctor told the Bury Times that some children have to wait to be treated at the accident and emergency department, because a consultant paediatrician has to travel from North Manchester General Hospital.
The unit has been shut to in-patients since mid-December, due to an increase in the number of sick children attending other hospitals in the area during the winter.
Several children’s nurses at Fairfield have been transferred to help at North Manchester General Hospital and Royal Oldham Hospital.
The Fairfield doctor, who asked not to be named, said: “After 9pm there is no paediatrician on site. The ambulance continues to bring sick children and sometimes parents bring a sick child.
“The doctors in A&E do not have training to deal with sick children and have to wait for a consultant paediatrician from North Manchester to arrive, which can take a long time if they are busy.
“This is very dangerous.”
A spokeswoman for Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Fairfield, said the same care is being given to children despite the closure of the paediatric observation and assessment unit (POAU).
She said: “Fairfield Hospital continues to provide a full A&E department. The care and treatment of any sick child remains a priority and the way in which the trust deals with sick children has not changed following the temporary closure of the paediatric observation and assessment unit at Fairfield.
“The North West Ambulance Service has a clear care pathway to follow in the event of an emergency call involving a sick child. This pathway has not changed and has been in place since March 2012.
“If a child requires emergency treatment, the ambulance will still take them to the nearest A&E department for assessment and parents usually come to the A&E rather than take their child to the POAU.
“Between the hours of 9am and 11pm, there continues to be a specialist paediatrician onsite at Fairfield General Hospital and after 11pm, children are treated by the A&E team. If the child’s condition deteriorates, an on-call consultant paediatrician will also attend A&E, if needed.”
Cathy Trinick, interim divisional director of women and children’s services, said the closure of the unit was needed because of “high numbers of sick children” visiting all the trust’s hospitals during the winter.
She added: “Due to the continuing winter pressures facing the paediatric service, it has been decided that the current arrangements will remain in place until the end of February.
“As patient safety is of paramount importance, this decision is supported by the NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group who we are working closely with.”
Children going to Fairfield who need to be admitted are being cared for at either North Manchester or Royal Oldham hospitals, where 11 extra children’s beds have been opened.
Bosses say a paediatric doctor is still based at Fairfield’s accident and emergency department to treat sick children between 9am and 11pm, when the assessment unit would normally operate.
GPs in Bury are referring sick children directly to North Manchester General if required.
Fairfield’s children’s observation and assessment unit opened in November 2010 to replace the hospital’s in-patient children’s ward.