Birth lit by mobile as power failure hits ERI

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

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A HUSBAND was forced to use his mobile phone as a torch to allow midwives to deliver his wife’s baby after a power outage at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the Evening News can reveal.

Hospital staff were left in the dark because back-up generators failed to kick in.

The woman was in the birthing pool at the Little France maternity unit when the electrical failure hit – but staff safely delivered her child with the help of the phone.

Now Consort – the firm which runs non-clinical services at the hospital – is to be fined for the episode in December. The amount is understood to be around £100,000.

Privately, health chiefs are said to be deeply concerned that back-up generators failed. It is also understood that health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has been told of the power failure.

Consort admitted that “minor interference” in the back-up generators led to widespread power outages.

The main system went down due to a supply fault caused by the high winds on December 8. Emergency batteries kept intensive care, surgical theatres and A&E in operation, but the rest of the hospital was without power for 11 minutes.

Describing the incident, one senior source said: “The woman was in the birthing pool when the power went out and left the room in complete darkness. The husband got his mobile phone out, turned it around and was able to use it as a torch.

“The staff carried on and had just enough light to deliver the baby.

“Mum and baby were absolutely fine. It was quick thinking by the dad, and fantastic work by the staff.”

Unison – which represents 8000 NHS Lothian workers – said the power failure was one of several to hit the ERI in recent years.

Branch chairman Tom Waterson said: “That’s the first incident of this kind, but staff have become used to having to deal with these power outages in recent years.

“Although patients will be happy Consort are having to pay the penalty, they’d be happier to see an end to power outages.”

Jackie Sansbury, Chief Operating Officer, NHS Lothian, said: “NHS Lothian’s PFI provider, Consort, did not meet the performance requirements for the month of December, as laid down in our contract.

“As a result, a penalty will be imposed and meetings are under way to establish the exact amount to be levied.

“We must be able to offer our patients the best standards at all times.”

Consort director Stephen Gordon said: “There were significant storms that day and Scottish Power’s supply to the site went down.

“That automatically starts up our stand-by generators. There were some minor interferences in the distribution of power which meant areas of the site didn’t get power for a little while. There was no issue in terms of patient safety but clearly there were areas of the hospital which didn’t get power as quickly as we’d have liked.”

He added: “We test our equipment and do our utmost to ensure these things don’t happen, but as with any piece of equipment sometimes things fail.

“The reason for the penalty is there’s a clause in the contract that if power isn’t supplied after a certain period, we [have to pay] a certain amount.”

ERI contractor under the spotlight

On Saturday it emerged that Consort had failed to tell NHS Lothian that the ERI was left with reduced security cover for three days.

Meanwhile, last week the News revealed that the firm failed to tell the health board that smoke alarms around ten operating theatres had been broken for eight days.

And in January we told how Consort had cleared staff to work without carrying out criminal background checks.

It is currently running Disclosure Scotland checks on all 580 staff who work at the hospital.