Kids turned away as hospital feels strain

Bedford Hospital south wing accident and emergency.
Bedford Hospital south wing accident and emergency.

Parents who use the children’s open access service at Bedford Hospital were shocked to be turned away due to it being short staffed.

The Children’s Assessment Unit, on Riverbank Ward, works with parents of children with long-term conditions that require regular treatment.

They are able to drop in for advice and help at any time without an appointment.

But Bedford mother Juliette Felce was furious when she needed to take daughter Keira in only to be told the unit was closed, last Thursday night.

She said: “My daughter has complex medical needs, and we are offered open access which I tried to use. I was told they have stopped open access and the assessment unit due to no staff.

“I wasn’t notified of this. Nor have many of my friends with children with complex needs. We have care plans in place for our children and no hospital access is a dangerous thing.”

Juliette said Keira was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis this year, after five years of uncontrolled epilepsy.

She alerted other parents who have open access to the unit to her experience via a page she runs on Facebook. None of them were aware the unit might not be able to see them, or their children.

However, the hospital did post a response to the page: “During peak periods this winter, some children may be redirected to A&E when the children’s assessment unit is very busy.

“The unit is not closed, but on some days this process may be in operation.

“Please call the usual number when you need to access the Children’s Assessment Unit and we will tell you where to take your child.

“We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and ask that you bear with us during this time while we take actions to strengthen the staffing on the unit.”

Juliette added: “So, why are we told by nurses when we ring there is no assessment unit at the moment because of staffing issues?

“And why have we not been notified? It’s not good enough in an emergency to be told the unit is closed and to go to Addenbrooke’s.”

Bedford Hospital declined to comment further at the time of going to press.