First Minister says Glasgow health board 'doing everything reasonably possible' to find family of child who died from hospital infection
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the NHS in Glasgow is doing all it can to track down the family of a child whose death is linked to an infection at their flagship super-hospital.
It was revealed in the Daily Record that a government probe into the contaminated water scandal at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital had been unable to contact an affected family.
Although they have refused to confirm which one, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he understood that it was the family of a child who had passed away.
Earlier this year, the independent case note review, led by Professor Mike Stevens, investigated 118 episodes of a particular type of serious infection, caused by Gram-negative environmental (GNE) bacteria, from 2015 to 2019.
It found that the deaths of two of the 22 children who had died were partly the result of their infection.
While the review did not name the two children, Kimberley Darroch believes they include her 10-year-old daughter Milly Main.
She died after becoming infected while recovering from a stem cell transplant to treat her cancer.
The second child died within six weeks of infection. The review concluded that it was “probably linked” to the hospital environment and ruled the bacteria was “implicated in the cause of death”.
During First Minister’s Questions, Sarwar asked Sturgeon why the family had not been tracked down. He accused her of breaking the legal duty of candour.
She said: “This is a matter of the utmost seriousness and it is because of that that I think it's really important to be clear that there was a case note review undertaken. That case note review looked at 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children.
“All of the families of those children, with one exception, have been contacted, the information from the case note review shared with them, and I'm sure a number of questions have been asked.
“There is one family that various attempts, serious attempts, have been made to contact, and it has not proved possible to contact them.”
She said that 83 out of 84 families had been contacted. “I think it is reasonable to conclude that it is not because the health board does not want to contact the family, it is that those attempts have not, so far, proved possible.”
Sarwar said the First Minister had missed the fundamental point. He called it the biggest scandal of the devolution-era.
“The case note review happened as a result of families fighting with the health board to get that review, which happened in 2019. This child died in 2017. Clinicians highlighted this case to health board officials in 2017. And then in 2019.
“Why did we wait till this year to try and find that family? It's one thing breaking the law when it comes to treatment waiting times, it's another thing breaking the law when it comes to telling a family the truth about how their child died.
"This scandal involved denial, bullying of clinicians, cover-ups, and parents of sick children being blamed for their illnesses.
“Clinicians have been raising the alarm for years. The result of inaction is tens of children getting infections and tragically two children dying.
“But inexplicably, there are still families fighting for the truth and justice.
“Nicola Sturgeon was Health Secretary when this hospital was commissioned. She was First Minister when it opened despite an independent review finding that the water supply was not safe.
“But the only people that have paid the price for this scandal have been the families and the whistle blowers. This case proves that the response from the First Minister has not been good enough.
“Scotland’s duty of candour law means that families should have been informed as soon as the health board became aware. That means the family should have been informed at least 18 months ago.
“The First Minister has broken the law and she must take personal responsibility that this family will be found and told the truth about what happened to their child. Someone must be held accountable for this scandal.”
Sturgeon said she would “certainly be ensuring that the health board is doing everything that is reasonably possible to locate this family.”
Earlier, in his first appearance at First Minister’s Questions since becoming leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross asked Sturgeon about restrictions in Glasgow and the impact on businesses.
In her answer, the First Minister referred to the evidence given by Dominic Cummings in Westminster yesterday.
She said: "As we know from bitter experience over this pandemic, it is often the failure to take quick and firm decisions that leads to loss of life.
"And anybody who is in any doubt about that would only have to listen to a fraction of what Dominic Cummings outlined and what he described as the 'chaotic' response of the UK Government at key moments in the pandemic," she said.
"I will continue to try to take difficult decisions as well as I possibly can."
The Tory MSP replied: "I'm sure there will be plenty of time for your backbenchers' scripted questions to answer about Dominic Cummings. I want to focus on what is happening in Scotland's largest city and the impact that is having on business in our communities as Glasgow has been under restrictions for 269 days."
Sturgeon said "careful, cautious and responsible" decision-making was needed in the face of the deadly virus.
"I was also pointing out with reference to some of what we heard yesterday of the impact and implications will be if a leader does not take careful, cautions and responsible decisions. And I think most people across the country understand the seriousness of the point I was making.
"Why is that relevant and not deflective? We are still in the face of this pandemic and it remains important that we take those careful decisions."