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18 November 2019
Jeane Freeman to face health committee questions over hospital issues

Lewis Macdonald. Image credit: Parliament TV

Jeane Freeman to face health committee questions over hospital issues

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman will face questions over issues at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and Edinburgh’s new children’s hospital, following news the death of a three-year-old boy at QEUH is being investigated by the Crown Office.

Ahead of the Health and Sport Committee meeting on Tuesday morning, committee convener Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said the issues at the two hospitals were “of deep concern to our committee”.

“We want to ensure that the public inquiry into the various issues these health facilities have faced is progressing,” Macdonald said.

“We also want to know what progress has been made in creating a new national body to oversee NHS building projects in future and that the issues regarding the disposal of clinical waste are being addressed.

“It is absolutely vital that patients in Scotland have faith that all healthcare facilities in Scotland meet the most robust standards of safety and cleanliness and pose no threat to their health.”

The boy’s death was reported to the Crown Office by Police Scotland in August 2017, and expert reports from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were recently handed to the Crown Office.

A Crown Office spokesperson told Holyrood the “procurator fiscal has received a report in connection with the death of a three-year-old boy at the QEUH on 9 August 2017.

“The investigation into the death, under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments."

Last week, Labour MSP for Glasgow Anas Sarwar said during First Minister’s Questions that a whistleblower claimed there were 26 infections at the QEUH children’s cancer ward in 2017, which may have been connected to the water supply, and “in one case a child died as a result”.

Sarwar said: “To this day, the parents have never been told”.

The following day, Freeman came under pressure to resign after she admitted to finding out about the 2017 death in September this year.

She told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Monday morning that the mother of the three-year-old boy had written to her over the weekend.

“We will pick up on all the issues that she’s raised, I’ve already acted on that, in order to ensure that she gets those questions answered,” she said.

“What is utterly unacceptable is parents are not told the full information by the board. Every parent knows that there are risks associated with cancer treatment in children, but they should absolutely be told too, what are the causes of death and what was done by the hospital in order to try and ensure that their child didn’t die.”

Freeman said she would make a statement to parliament later this week “on all of these matters and what I intend to do”.

Asked whether she would take NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde into special measures, Freeman said it was not appropriate to comment on this before her statement to parliament, but added: “It’s always an option, to look at how we escalate any board.”

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