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Scottish Government announces public inquiry into Queen Elizabeth and Sick Kids hospitals

Health secretary Jeane Freeman - Image credit: Scottish Parliament TV  

Scottish Government announces public inquiry into Queen Elizabeth and Sick Kids hospitals

The Scottish Government will hold a public inquiry into issues at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.

The inquiry will look at how defects in ventilation and other key building systems occurred and what steps can be taken to prevent these problems being repeated in future projects.

This follows several patient deaths at the Glasgow hospital due to infections that have been linked to issues with the ventilation system, while the opening of the newly built children’s hospital in Edinburgh has been delayed by a year due to concerns about similar issues.

The announcement comes after the health secretary had previously said she would not hold an inquiry into the issue.

In response to a question from Labour’s shadow health secretary Monica Lennon on whether there would be a public inquiry into the handling of the hospital build last week in parliament, Freeman said she “did not see what difference a public inquiry would make”.

Lennon said: “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.

“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.”

But today Freeman said: “The safety and well-being of all patients and their families is my top priority and should be the primary consideration in all NHS construction projects.

“I want to make sure this is the case for all future projects, which is why, following calls from affected parents, I am announcing a public inquiry to examine the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital sites.

“The recent KPMG and NSS reports into the new Edinburgh Children’s Hospital will provide a significant amount of the underpinning evidence for the inquiry alongside the ongoing independent review into the delivery and maintenance of the QEUH.

“The current situation is not one anyone would choose – but it is one I am determined to resolve.”

Responding to the announcement, Lennon said: "it should not have taken weeks of pressure from Scottish Labour, patients and families for this to have been agreed to by the Health Secretary."

“Children in Scotland are being let down because the hospitals they were promised are not fit for purpose. We have two hospitals built by the same contractor that are mired in controversy, and all the while patients are suffering. The public need to know the truth of what has went so badly wrong at these two vital hospitals," she said. 

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs commented: “It should not have taken the SNP more than 12 years in government to finally face up to its responsibilities on these matters.

“It is now vital that the public inquiry reports as soon as possible and considers the decisions taken around these projects by all four SNP health ministers.

And Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said the public inquiry was an “overdue U-turn” from the Health Secretary.

He added: “As the first party to call for a public inquiry into this fiasco, Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently demanded better for patients than the SNP's excuses and evasion.

“The series of incidents at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital have been of the gravest magnitude, while the Sick Kids hospital has racked up bill after bill and delay and delay.

“Quite simply, we cannot have young patients being treated in facilities that are not up to scratch.

“It is vital that this public inquiry now moves forward in a way that complements and does not further delay the opening of the Sick Kids hospital.

“Public trust in these projects must be urgently restored.”

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