Blackburn children's ward to close to make way for more emergency treatment

11:00pm Tuesday 24th February 2009

A CHILDREN’S ward is set to close to make way for further measures to bring emergency hospital services up to scratch.

The paediatric day case unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital, which includes 16 beds, consultation rooms, a reception area and play room, will be emptied, ready for a new surgical triage unit, which bosses hope will bring an end to queues of ambulances waiting outside the emergency department.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs both Burnley General Hospital and the Royal Blackburn Hospital, now has no chance of meeting the government target of 98 per cent of all patients making it through an emergency department or urgent care centre within four hours.

Currently, an average of just under 97 per cent have been seen in that time over the past year, but at times as many as one in 10 patients have missed the target.

The new surgical triage unit, first announced late last year, means patients who could need emergency surgery, whether they arrive by ambulance or are referred by their GP, will be transferred directly there for assessment, and those most in need will be operated on as quickly as possible.

But parents will now have to travel to Burnley for most children’s outpatient procedures. Just five beds will be retained for the children, moved into the in-patient ward, and reserved only for those with long-term conditions.

Ruth Gildert, divisional general manager for family care, said the children’s day case ward in Burnley was big enough to accommodate all children who needed day surgery, but she hoped keeping the beds at Blackburn for those needing repeat blood transfusions or other non-surgical procedures would avoid inconveniencing families.

She said: “These decisions are not entered into lightly and all factors are taken into consideration before any move is planned.”

Helen Fothergill, divisional general manager for surgery, added: “Currently there is no triage or assessment service within General Surgery and patients are either assessed in the Emergency Department or Urgent Care Centre and are then transferred to an inpatient ward.

“However, a surgical triage unit will allow Royal Blackburn to develop as an excellent trauma hospital by assessing and treating emergency surgery patients directly on this unit and, if appropriate, operating on them as quickly as possible.

“Not only will this result in those patients who require surgery being diagnosed and treated more quickly, it will also ensure that those people who do not require surgery are treated promptly and effectively.”

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