Responding to the announcement by NHS Lothian of the temporary closure of its Children’s Ward at St John’s Hospital, former consultant at St John’s, and Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Dr. Richard Simpson MSP, said:

“This is what happens when you cut staffing levels to the bone in the way the SNP has done. They have cut around 5,000 NHS staff, with half of those being nurses and midwives.

“And this is not the first time we have seen this happen. Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Hospital two years ago had to close their A&E department due to staff shortages.

“This is yet further evidence that the NHS is under stress. It is simply not credible that the Scottish Health service can lose 2,500 nurses and midwives without any adverse effect.

“Nicola Sturgeon is simply in denial not to recognise this. Delays to the new Sick Kids in Edinburgh and now the closure of the St Johns Children’s Ward for a period through lack of staff is a serious concern. How will the remaining staffed wards cope?”

“This is not the fault of hard working staff. The SNP is creating an environment in the health service that risks these practices becoming more likely by imposing deep cuts to staffing levels, resulting in staffing levels on the ground being thin.

“This is also another SNP manifesto commitment that has been broken too, after all they had committed to “maintain” local services, which is now clearly not being met.

“The fact too that this ward is having to close because of a shortage of Junior Doctors resulting from a decision by the Dean responsible for training shows the shambles in workforce planning under the SNP government.”

Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said:

“This is yet another example of NHS Lothian simply not having enough staff in place to provide services for patients – year in year out. St John’s needs to be properly staffed all year round.

“With the best will in the world this will be confusing for parents at a time when their focus is getting the best medical treatment for their child.”

Fellow Lothian MSP Neil Findlay said:

“This is an appalling decision by NHS Lothian. They have known for over 6 months that this could happen. A consultant should have been appointed before now and the service could have continued.

“I am afraid that you cannot absolve the SNP Government from this debacle. Under them the numbers of Doctors and Nurses has fallen considerably.

“The fact that NHS Lothian has not recruited the necessary cover cannot be de-coupled from the wider SNP policy in cutting NHS resources.

“I will be watching this like a hawk to ensure they keep to their promise by reopening the ward in August and to ensure that this never happens again.”