Evening and weekend emergency children's operations to end at three hospitals over lack of NHS staff
But officials say revised plans affecting Barnsley, Rotherham and Chesterfield hospitals will only affect around 65 patients a year, compared to the 1,500 it had been thought may be affected when more wide-ranging proposals were first put forward three years ago.
The change is being made due to a lack of specialist staff, with affected children being treated in Sheffield, Doncaster or Wakefield instead when required by specially trained ambulance crews.
Des Breen, medical director of the Working Together Partnership made up of regional NHS decision-makers, said: “The number of children affected by the proposed change has reduced significantly since the launch of the consultation and now only 65 children per year for three different specialities would have an operation elsewhere, in an out-of-hours
"By working this through during the consultation with our doctors, who have agreed to work together as a network, any change would support local teams to do as many operations as possible in a planned way. By working differently and moving a small number of children out of hours we would be able to make sure the very specialist skills needed are there for them around the clock.”
Mr Breen added: “We’ve been facing a number of issues which mean that we need to change how we provide emergency out-of-hours operations for children across the region.
“The relatively small number of out-of-hours emergency operations carried out means that some staff don’t operate on as many children as others and some services don’t meet the standards we all expect to provide. Nationally, we don’t have enough expert staff to provide care in all hospitals, all of the time. We need to change how we work now so that we don’t face more problems in the future.”
Will Cleary-Gray, director of sustainability and transformation for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, said further changes may be need in future to how hospital services work in the region.
“As we’ve worked through how we can best ensure all children in our region receive the best quality, care and outcomes, the conclusion we’ve reached with our doctors is that in most cases, emergency surgery can take place in hours in all local hospitals," he said.
"Thanks to an agreed networked way of working, which has come out of the review and consultation, it means only a small number of children will be transferred out of hours and on weekends.
“We are now starting to look more widely at how children who are ‘acutely ill’ are seen and treated across the region and to explore how we can improve quality, care and outcomes for them. This work is likely to see more proposals for doing things differently across the region, and therefore the out of hours surgery is the start of the journey for making improvements.
“We’re absolutely committed to having as many services as close to where people live as possible. This includes urgent care.
"As part of our work in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, we’re working with local clinics and surgeries to make this happen, and at the same time, are looking at how those services that need to be in a hospital can continue to happen in a more planned and sustainable way to offer the best care and the best services for the region as a whole.”