MSP Jim Eadie urges bigger fines in ERI crisis

Jim Eadie. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Jim Eadie. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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AN MSP is demanding bigger fines for the private firm in charge of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after branding the running of the hospital a “major public scandal”.

Jim Eadie made the call in the wake of Evening News revelations that Lothian health chiefs could only hit Consort in the pocket for less than £30 a day.

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Edinburgh Southern MSP now wants to spark a major Holyrood debate and has tabled a motion to the Scottish Parliament labelling the ERI contract “disastrous”.

It emerged last week that Consort faced the paltry fine after it was blamed for operating theatres closing when flies were found in the sterile areas.

It followed blunders which saw a patient have to be operated on by torchlight after power was cut and incomplete checks carried out on staff.

Mr Eadie, whose motion has already obtained support from 17 of his SNP colleagues and independent Jean Urquhart, described the £28.24 fines as “totally inadequate” and said the contract which sees Consort paid £60 million a year “will deprive patients of vital resources”.

He said: “The ongoing revelations of PFI as revealed by the Evening News is nothing short of a major public scandal. The paltry fines for major negligence and breach of contract are totally unacceptable.

“Operations by torchlight, incomplete checks on staff and now the appalling breaches in hygiene with flies found in operating suites is truly shocking.

“It is unacceptable that NHS Lothian appear unable to apply appropriate penalties for what are serious breaches in the maintenance contract. The ERI alone will cost the taxpayer £1.28 billion over the life of the contract.

“When you contrast that mammoth figure with the paltry fines which NHS Lothian can impose, we see that these PFI contracts are failing the public.”

Mr Eadie is also hoping to quiz Health Secretary Alex Neil about what health boards can do to review contracts to ensure appropriate penalties are put in place.

He said: “This issue is wider than Lothian, that is why I am seeking cross-party support to secure a parliamentary debate so that we can shine a light on PFI contracts.”

NHS Lothian declined to respond to Mr Eadie’s motion, as well as Gordon Beurskens of the Action to Save St John’s Hospital party, who obtained correspondence between NHS Lothian and Consort which revealed the tiny £28.24 fines.

The health board last week said it was taking other steps to recoup cash, including seeking to downgrade a performance rating of 98.668 per cent Consort awarded itself in November.

A spokesperson for Consort said: “Consort fully supports the statements made by NHS Lothian last week and has no further comment.”