Hours cut at children’s A&E in Welwyn Garden City

CHILDREN’S A&E at the QE2 Hospital is set to have its hours slashed, meaning 22 families a week making the journey up the A1(M) to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage.

From this Monday – February 28 – youngsters can only be treated in WGC between the hours of 8am and 8pm each day.

The service currently opens from 7.30am and runs through until 11pm.

Figures released to the WHT show 1,165 children aged up to 16 were seen between 8pm and 11pm in 2010, with more than 150 youngsters treated in July alone.

The hours were expected to be cut in November when maternity moves up to the Lister, but is now set to be brought in much earlier due to problems recruiting specialist paediatric doctors.

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Dr Andy Raffles from the East and North Herts NHS Trust said: “Maintaining clinically safe staffing rotas for both specialist doctors and nurses is a real challenge.

“Even if locums were available, which is rarely the case, the even tighter management being placed on NHS budgets means that the ensuing overspend caused to our budgets is no longer possible.

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“While we’ve just about managed up until now, the position from March 2011 means that we have to make changes to the opening times of the QE2’s emergency children’s services a few months earlier than we had planned originally.

“If we had not made this change, we risked an increase in the number of ad hoc closures, which would become inevitable given the staffing position.”

QE2 Hospital campaigner and MP Grant Shapps warned the changes won’t help parents.

He said: “As a dad with young children I think that the situation whereby parents can never be certain whether the children’s A & E is open or not is deeply unsatisfactory.

“There is potentially some better news on opening hours when the new hospital is built and I’ll be keeping a very close eye on what happens to this department then.”

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