Concern as nearest children's hospital emergency unit closes overnight
OVERNIGHT children s accident and emergency services at a nearby hospital are closing next week – but many parents in the St Albans district have only learned about it by chance. Large parts of the district, particularly Colney Heath, Wheathampstead and
OVERNIGHT children's accident and emergency services at a nearby hospital are closing next week - but many parents in the St Albans district have only learned about it by chance.
Large parts of the district, particularly Colney Heath, Wheathampstead and Sandridge, look to Welwyn Garden City's QEII Hospital for emergency treatment.
But the overnight children's A&E service there, which operates from 9pm to 7.30am, is moving to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage from next Friday, August 1, which many local parents have been unaware of.
Mother-of-two Lindsey Macneil, who lives in Colney Heath, said both her daughters had been rushed to the children's A&E at the QEII in the past couple of years.
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The first she had heard of the overnight closure was when she had found an A5 flyer in the school folder of one of her daughters and she was particularly concerned because the transfer of services coincided with the school holidays.
She added: "I don't know Stevenage at all as I tend to stay in and around St Albans but say it is midnight and something happens to your child, you have either to wait for an ambulance or try and find the Lister. I think it would leave a lot of parents in a very precarious situation."
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She said it was only by chance that the flyer fell out of her daughter's bag. She had picked it up and read it out to her sister-in-law to whom she was talking on the phone and they were both really shocked by the closure and how quickly it was happening.
A spokesman for the East and North Herts NHS Trust which runs both the QEII and Lister Hospitals said the closure had been brought forward from September because the QEII overnight service had been hit by a number of ad hoc closures due to sickness.
The trust had attempted to persuade schools to send out flyers but most had said they could not do it. He added: "We are getting it out through newsletters and leaflets going out in all areas this week so all areas have been covered but it is inevitable that some people won't know."
The trust maintains that typically the current service at QEII only sees one or two children a night and it is not unusual during a whole shift for the staff not to see any youngsters at all.
A new specialist 24-hour children's A&E and assessment unit is being developed at the Lister where the overnight care for QEII cases will be offered but other services for children including daytime A&E and paediatric assessment, day surgery, routine diagnostic services and outpatient appointments will continue at the QEII.