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Nicola Sturgeon branded 'contemptible' for missing QEUH debate

Nicola Sturgeon branded 'contemptible' for missing QEUH debate

Nicola Sturgeon was branded “contemptible” for missing a debate on Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

The First Minister was the only party leader not to be in Holyrood for Labour’s debate on the under-fire health board. 

Anas Sarwar’s motion urged MSPs to show they had “no confidence in the leadership of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde” and to call for ministers to “escalate the NHS board to Stage 5 of the performance escalation framework without delay.”

Before the debate, the Labour leader held a press conference with the families of two people who died after contracting infections at the QEUH. 

Louise Slorance’s husband, a former aide to the First Minister, died in December last year after contracting Covid while in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for cancer treatment. 

The hospital did not tell his family that he had also caught an infection caused by aspergillus, a type of mould, while in their care.

Kimberly Darroch’s daughter, 10-year-old Milly Main was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012, and died in 2017 after contracting stenotrophomonas at the hospital - an infection found in water.

Speaking at the press conference, both women praised the frontline staff at the hospital but called on bosses to resign or be sacked. 

Slorance said: “I think the Scottish Government now need to show whose side they’re on, whether it’s ours or the health board management team.”

Darroch said: “We have worked tirelessly to stop this from happening again and that was my main focus after Milly died.

“The main reason that I came into public life was so that no family had to go through what I went through.

“That hasn’t happened, it’s continued to happen and it will continue to happen until something is done about the leadership of the health board.”

There was some pushback on the criticism, with 23 senior clinicians at the hospital writing to the First Minister and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, complaining about their “immense disappointment and frustration about the way in which our hospitals, our colleagues and the treatment of our patients is being portrayed in the press and the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.”

The clinicians, including Jennifer Armstrong, the medical director, wrote: “We have been, and remain, fully committed to being completely open and transparent in all that we do and we are dismayed that the integrity of our staff has been repeatedly called into question.

“Do we always get everything right when we discuss issues with families? Perhaps not. Do we ever willfully withhold information from them? Absolutely not.

“We have grave concerns that the continued undermining nature of the current negative headlines will result in an erosion of trust between clinical staff and patients and their families.”

Speaking in parliament, Sarwar said he wasn’t attacking the clinicians but the management. 

He said: “I have no confidence in the leadership of your health board. You deserve a leadership that doesn't try to silence you. That doesn't try to bully you. Perhaps most of all, as we have seen this week, you deserve a management that doesn't disgracefully attempt to spread the blame to staff. 

“I know they're letting you down. And this fight is as much for you as it is for the patients and families.”

He accused the board of trying to “gaslight the entire staff base at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in order to protect your jobs at the top.” 

“Do not underestimate the resolve of the staff, patients and families. They cannot be silenced. They cannot be managed away. I have spoken to them. And I've made them a promise as a representative, but more importantly, as a father, I will not stop. I will not go away. I will not rest until I get the answers and the justice you, your families and the staff deserve.”

Sarwar said this had been “a two year fight for justice”. 

“And in that time we've had three water reports ignored, flagging the risk as high, staff bullied and silenced, patients getting infections, more patient deaths. In one case a family only finding out because of the bravery of whistleblowers. In another case a family still do not know how their child died because the health board has not been able to make contact with them. 

“We've had ward's closed, an independent review, a case note review, a public inquiry and criminal investigations. And families still having to fight the system to get the truth, families still having to tell the tragic stories in newspapers in order to try and get answers from the government and the health board, and people are still dying from the preventable hospital-acquired infections.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said:  “When families watch their loved ones going into hospital, they expect them to see that world leading health care that our NHS is so highly respected for. They don't expect an NHS hospital to be the cause of death of their loved one.”

He called for a further independent inquiry to be held into the ministerial response to the “avoidable” deaths at the hospital. 

He said: “This is not an issue of scoring political points. Every single member in this chamber has to understand the anguish and the heartbreak of the families who've lost loved ones in this appalling tragedy.”

Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole Hamitlon hit out at the First Minister’s absence. 

“It's a rare occasion when this chamber sees the leaders of all opposition parties in attendance to discuss a topic of such public importance, which with feelings that run so deep into our society that we are all compelled to lead for our parties.

"It is dismaying that the First Minister has not found an hour in her diary to attend parliament to address the problems at this hospital, a hospital which she commissioned, a hospital which serves patients in her own constituency, and one in which problems have gone unaddressed on her watch. I find that contemptible.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Each and every single one of my colleagues and my backbench colleagues or indeed, my colleagues in government, and of course, I include myself in this. I suspect we are all on the same side, on the same side as Douglas Ross, same side as Anas Sarwar, the same side as Alex Cole-Hamilton. 

“Each and every single one of us wants the best, most safe patient experience for members of the public.”

Yousaf said the government had “taken action.” 

He told MSPs: “There have been seven different reviews. Those recommendations haven't sat on a shelf, 98 per cent of those recommendations have been implemented. And 80 per cent of the oversight board recommendations have also been."

"Of course improvements, where they can be made must be made. Huge improvements have been made," he said.

At the end of the debate, MSPs voted 64 to 54 in favour of Yousaf's amendment, which removed the phrase "has no confidence" in the NHS board from Sarwar's motion.

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