Senior doctors condemn ‘incomprehensible’ decision to move to new hospital during Covid-19 outbreak

Senior medical staff are concerned that NHS Lothian are planning to move a vital hospital department providing life-saving treatment to Covid-19 patients to a new site.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 6:00 am

The Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN) at the Western General in Edinburgh is set to move en masse to the £150 million so-called “ghost hospital” at Little France in May.

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The decision has been met with incredulity by clinicians who say it comes at a time of “immense stress” with the DCN staff in the frontline of providing round-the-clock care to coronavirus patients in the intensive treatment unit (ITU).

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Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh

‘Ben Nevis without a compass’

A staff member said: “How on earth can you interrupt a fluid pandemic outbreak in favour of a move to a new hospital – staff have no navigation in a new hospital. It’s like being on Ben Nevis in a white-out with a compass and then you lose it and then you die.”

The new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh, which will also be home to the DCN, was due to open last July but health secretary Jeane Freeman pulled the plug just hours before opening – after it was found the ventilation system in critical care did not meet national standards.

She also demanded further checks on other aspects of the building, particularly the water supply, ventilation and drainage.

At present the DCN has around 60 patients and upwards of 300 staff.

‘Distraction’

A DCN staff member added: “We need to focus on this pandemic, not a distraction of this magnitude. It is incomprehensible thoughts are on the move to the new building. The stress we are under is immense. How in the world can we move hospitals safely? We need the vital staff here at DCN and in ITU, not half way across the city with removal teams.

“This move would be during or after the peak of Covid-19 whereby the uncertainty is worrying when we look at Italy as the model that the UK may follow.”

Staff involvement

NHS Lothian said the plan was to move the DCN during the week commencing 25 May, subject to assessment, with a final decision made on 9 April to allow six weeks’ notice of the move.

Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “Staff have been fully involved in developing the plans and timeline for the potential move of DCN. It is also worth noting routine clinics, scans and surgery are not now taking place during this period due to Covid-19.”