Doncaster’s cash- strapped hospitals trust is spending £14,000 a month transferring youngsters from Bassetlaw to Doncaster and Sheffield after children’s ward cuts.
It has been revealed that Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, which runs both the Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop, is commissioning private ambulances to ferry sick children in need of overnight care to Doncaster and Sheffield at the cost of around £3,500 a week.
It means doctors in Doncaster are dealing with child patients from both Doncaster and Bassetlaw at certain times of the day.
The move comes after cuts to the Bassetlaw Hospital children’s ward as a result of “staffing shortages” which have led to its closure to admissions after 7pm, sparking outrage and concern amongst Bassetlaw parents.
Idris Griffiths, chief officer at NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “In partnership with the trust, we commission a specialist, paediatric transport service from a private provider based in Doncaster, Premier Care Direct, at a weekly cost of approximately £3,500.
“The ambulances are operated by appropriately trained ambulance staff. The service ensures we have a dedicated service at peak times to transfer any child that needs admitting to hospital overnight.”
Trust chiefs said the ward “may re-open” if current staff vacancies can be filled.
David Purdue, chief operating officer at the trust, said: “The trust has multiple nursing vacancies and despite numerous recruitment drives, these have been unsuccessful.
“This position is not unique to Bassetlaw, and we have made these changes to make the best use of the staffing we have available in order to continue to provide a safe paediatric service.”
John Mann MP said: “This situation is farcical. I have demanded that we are given the ambulances, crews and doctors that we need.
“Instead of wasting thousands of pounds a week, the hospital should invest in keeping the children’s ward open overnight.”
The spending comes at a time when the hospital is trying to deal with a £20 million black hole in its finances.