'Vital' West Lothian respite centre for seriously ill children at risk of closure

sunndach centre
-Credit: (Image: NHS Lothian)


A vital West Lothian centre for disabled and seriously ill children is at risk of closure in a move which has been branded "unacceptable."

NHS Lothian's Sunndach centre in Livingston is reportedly under review due to a squeeze on health budgets, with the health board confirming engagement sessions will be held with families and carers.

The site, in Ladywell, and its sister centre Calareidh in Edinburgh are purpose-built bungalows, nurse led 24/7 and ran by NHS Lothian to provide specialist respite and residential care to children and young people with complex care needs.

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As the West Lothian Courier reports, there is currently no other services in Scotland which provide the same care. The service also provides end of life care and work closely with the children's palliative care team.

A spokesperson for the service, who asked not to be named, said: "We all know the NHS is struggling at the minute. But to even consider reviewing this service is astonishing. There has been talks around reducing the service into one, nine bedroom unit, which is still unacceptable.

"The service is supposed to be a comfortable and dignified experience for the children way from the hospital setting.

"Combining the service to one small house would mean a hectic stay for all children and staff. Less time for staff to spend time with them doing the fun things that they should be experiencing. It would be such a different service and not at all anything like what it is now or has been in the past.

"Taking away or even reducing this service will be a massive loss to these children and their families, and to any potential families who may require to access such a service in the future."

Sunndach, which is Gaelic for "joy, happy or bright" celebrated its 20th anniversary just last year.

The parents of youngsters who use the service said it offers a place where children can be independent in a "home away from home" without parents having to worry.

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The spokesperson continued: "NHS Lothian prides itself on their values - Care & Compassion, Dignity & Respect, Quality, Teamwork, Honesty & Responsibility. Where do the values come into place here? The care of the service users and families will be massively impacted.

"Dignity and respect lessened, quality of the service hugely downgraded and the responsibility to provide the care deserved gone! Staff here absolutely love their jobs and to most it is much more than just a job. It is their whole life."

Allister Short, Director of Women's and Children's Services, NHS Lothian, said: "NHS Lothian, along with other public sector bodies in Scotland is facing serious financial challenge and as a result, all services and spending are being reviewed.

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"As part of that process, we are working with families and staff to consider the current model of respite and residential care provision for children in Lothian.

"We remain committed to the provision of respite and residential care and over the next few weeks, a number of engagement sessions will be held with families and carers.

"A dedicated project team will then gather the information to better understand the current service model and carry out a full options appraisal, which will include the input from families and carers."