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10 December 2019
Jeane Freeman announces infection control assessment of Glasgow hospital

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman. Image credit: Scottish Parliament TV

Jeane Freeman announces infection control assessment of Glasgow hospital

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced a senior clinician in infection control and prevention from outside NHS Scotland will be brought in to provide “an independent expert assessment” of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Freeman revealed several new appointments to the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) oversight board, after the health board was placed under special measures last month.

She announced former NHS National Services Scotland medical director Professor Marion Bain would take over the systems and processes for infection prevention and control within NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with a senior clinician providing an “independent expert assessment of the actions we are taking”.

“They will also review the infection data and help to validate it. They will report to the oversight board and provide an external assurance that the actions that are being taken are effective and appropriate,” she said.

Freeman said the oversight board had been split into three groups: one on infection prevention and control led by NHS Lanarkshire executive lead for healthcare associated infections Irene Barkby; another on communication and engagement, led by Professor Craig White and including family representatives; and a third group to consider any technical issues required.

She said White had written to 400 parents of children seen by the hospital’s paediatric haemato-oncology service, “to hear directly from them on their experience of communication and engagement with the board”.

“In addition, we will be writing to each of the individual families, setting out the arrangements that will be put in place to review individual cases and how families who wish to be involved in these reviews can do so,” she said.

Head of excellence in care from Healthcare Improvement Scotland Andrew Moore, and NHSGGC deputy nurse director Angela O’Neill have been appointed to “ensure the actions identified by the oversight board are actually fully implemented”, Freeman said.

The oversight board is chaired by chief nursing officer Professor Fiona McQueen and will report to NHS Scotland chief executive Malcolm Wright and Freeman.

Freeman said the oversight board would ensure improvements to the systems, processes and governance in relation to infection prevention, management and control, as well as improvements to the associated communication and public engagement issues. It would also ensure improvement to NHSGGC’s governance processes and help rebuild “public confidence and strengthen the approaches that are in place to mitigate avoidable harms.

“Families deserve confidence in their services and deserve answers. I have outlined a significant level of intervention within the operation of the QEUH to ensure these issues are dealt with thoroughly and quickly,” Freeman said.

“I will keep parliament updated on the progress of the oversight board and their findings.”

She said she had met with NHSGGC on Tuesday morning and the board “is in no doubt how seriously this government takes these issues and the safety of care, the importance of transparency and rigour in these matters, and the actions I require from them to restore and rebuild confidence”.

Freeman admitted two water reports commissioned by the Glasgow health board of QEUH in 2015 and 2017 “were not provided to the Scottish Government at the time of their commencement or their completion”.

The issue was recently brought to Freeman’s attention by Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, who said the reports revealed there was a “high risk” of infection at the hospital.

After her statement, Sarwar called for the health secretary to launch an “urgent investigation” into how this occurred, adding: “senior managers must be moved aside to allow an independent investigation to happen.

“If they are allowed to walk the crime scene, then they risk compromising that investigation and this whole process fails before it has even started,” he said.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) said serious failings at hospitals in Scotland in recent years had “highlighted the need for quality governance in healthcare, with patient-centred decision making at its heart”.

“In Scotland, this is an area where we’d like to see the Scottish Government play a leading role, working with NHS boards and clinicians to develop more meaningful performance indicators in relation to the quality of care,” an RCPE spokesperson said.

“We welcome steps to introduce an oversight board of governance arrangements in the NHS and would encourage it to interact with clinicians at all levels.”

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