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Edinburgh children’s hospital delayed another year with £16m extra cost

Jeane Freeman delivers a statement on the progress of Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People - Image credit: Scottish Parliament TV

Edinburgh children’s hospital delayed another year with £16m extra cost

Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People will not be opened until Autumn 2020, Jeane Freeman has told the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish Health Secretary stating it will cost an additional £16m to bring the hospital up to the required standards.

The health secretary made the announcements in a statement to parliament today, following months of uncertainty after the hospital’s opening was postponed in July due to issues with its critical care ventilation system.

As she made the statement, Freeman released two reports into the bungled hospital opening.

“Following my decision to halt the opening of the new facilities in July, I commissioned two reports, one from KPMG and the other from NHS National Services Scotland (NSS),” she said.

“KPMG were asked to consider issues of governance and establish the facts leading to the decision to delay the move. NSS were asked to examine the whole site, to advise me on relevant compliance issues.”

Freeman said the NSS report found, in addition to the issues in critical care, there were ventilation issues in other areas and recommended “remedial action is required on the quality of work in a number of areas, with specific issues identified in haematology and oncology.”

She said NSS also recommended “remedial and cautionary actions” to bring the water systems up to scratch, and a “system-wide disinfection prior to occupation”.

“It is clear that there is significant work to be undertaken to ensure this site is fully-compliant,” Freeman said.

“This is work that I regret to say will take time. In the interests of patient safety, I will not authorise a move to the new site until this work has been competed, tested and found to be fully compliant.”

She said she had “concluded that the children’s services will remain on their current site until next Autumn”, to ensure “work is done properly and to give maximum certainty to staff and patients”.

Freeman said she estimated an additional £16m was needed “to replace the critical care ventilation system, undertake the other remedial work identified by NSS, and work in respect of the continued operation and improvement of the current sites”.

She added that the costs will continue to be reviewed going forward.

Freeman said the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN) was unaffected by the issues in critical care, and she had asked for the DCN to be able to migrate earlier than the rest of the hospital, due to issues with its current site at Western General Hospital.

“My current expectation is that the DCN will be able to move in Spring next year,” she said.

She said the KPMG report had set out “a clear picture of human error and confusion over interpretation of standards and guidance and missed opportunities to spot and rectify” errors.

“There are clear issues to be examined now about accountability within the [NHS Lothian] board. They must be considered carefully and with due process.”

She said given the “number and level of issues to be rectified” within the hospital and health board, “senior level external support is required”.

“A senior program director will be appointed, reporting directly to Scottish Government,” Freeman said.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland said “staff, patients and their families will be extremely disappointed” about the decision to postpone the hospital’s opening for another year.

“Patient safety is the top priority, yet it is frustrating that such significant additional costs are required to remedy the problems identified at the new site and keep the existing sites running,” RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said.

“Staff have expressed frustration at the impact the delay could have on patient care, but they also want reassurance that the new facility will be safe.”

The postponement also attracted staunch criticism from opposition parties.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon asked Freeman whether there would be a public inquiry into the handling of the hospital build.

“This project is a disaster; the statement throws up more questions than answers. We still don’t have a clear picture of where responsibility lies,” she told parliament.

“Who from the Scottish Government sat on the project board and where are they now? On a principal of accountability, we need a full-blown public inquiry.”

Freeman responded: “I do not see what difference a public inquiry would make to the work that we’ve already undertaken.”

“And I do not believe, when the focus should be on remedying this situation and moving patients and staff safely to the new site, why we would then distract them from all of that into a public inquiry,” she continued.

Scottish Conservative health spokesperson Miles Briggs said: “The cabinet secretary today asks us to believe that human error or confusion, and a failure of an environmental matrix, means that no SNP ministers are responsible for seven years of this delayed project.”

“Reading between the lines of the statement today, it looks like the cabinet secretary now intends to hang NHS management out for this problem. What responsibility will SNP ministers take for these reports today?”

Freeman replied: “I do not expect you to believe anything, actually, the KPMG report is clear in what it says, I am acting on those reports. And you will know, Mr Briggs, that responsibility for infrastructure build currently rests with boards.”

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