Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children: Report finds spreadsheet error led to £16 million opening delay

A report into issues with the ventilation at the hospital said there was “collective failure from the parties involved.”

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 9:12 am

A copy-and-paste error in a 2012 spreadsheet prevented the opening of the new £150 million Royal Sick Kids site in Edinburgh last year, a report has found.

The state-of-the-art facility was meant to reopen in July 2019, before last minute issues with ventilation forced the unit to stay closed.

An NHS Lothian-commissioned report by auditors Grant Thornton found a “human error” in a spreadsheet created in 2012 that outlined the air flow specifications for critical care rooms at the new hospital.

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A copy-and-paste error in a 2012 spreadsheet prevented the opening of the new £150 million Royal Sick Kids site in Edinburgh last year, a report has found. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But it concluded that it was “not possible to identify one single event which resulted in the errors,” maintaining that the fiasco was due to the “collective failure from the parties involved.”

Repair work has since been carried out at the site in Little France to the tune of £16 million, but the hospital – which costs £1.4 million per month - is still yet to open fully.

Spreadsheet error not spotted in time

The Grant Thornton review highlighted the failure of all parties to spot an error on a spreadsheet that listed ventilation requirements for critical care rooms at the facility.

The state-of-the-art facility was meant to reopen in July 2019, before last minute issues with ventilation forced the unit to stay closed.

Ventilation guidelines mean that critical care rooms need 10 air changes every hour to control the spread of infections.

But the “environmental matrix” spreadsheet from 2012 that contained the specifications sent to contractors called for “four air changes” instead of 10.

Auditors concluded that: "This looks to be, based on our review, human error in copying across the four-bedded room generic ventilation criteria into the critical care room detail".

This inaccurate spreadsheet was then sent to three firms bidding for the construction contract for the hospital.

Grant Thornton said that one of the firms actually identified the error and submitted a corrected version of the environmental matrix spreadsheet in its bid - but they did not win the contract.

The report found that the team evaluating the bids did not notice the correction.

They also found that a separate error in the environmental matrix, that called for the inclusion of en-suite bathrooms in critical care rooms, was spotted in 2016 - but the air changes flaw was not.

£432 million contract

The Sick Kids hospital was the first NHS hospital to be built under Non-Profit Distribution (NPD) - the Scottish government’s private financing model.

While NHS Lothian made a list of requirements for the state-of-the-art facility, it was IHSL - a private consortium - that designed, built, and funded the project.

Over the next 25 years, the IHSL deal will cost the Scottish government £432 million, including monthly payments of £1.4 million for maintenance and facility management costs.

NHS Lothian said it had already made a number of the recommendations for improvement in the report to "ensure that future capital projects will benefit".

“We are looking forward to the full opening”

Chief executive of NHS Lothian, Calum Campbell, said: "Recommendations in relation to decision making, clarity, clinical engagement and involvement of external advisers have been made.

"Some areas identified have already been addressed and others will be implemented within the agreed timeframes to ensure that future capital projects will benefit.

"The Department of Clinical Neurosciences and children's outpatient services have already settled into their new home and we are looking forward to the full opening as soon as possible."

“Ensure that any past mistakes are not repeated”

In a statement, the Scottish government said the safety and well-being of patients and their families was their top priority and should be the "primary consideration in all NHS construction projects".

"A public inquiry is under way to help us understand the issues that affected both the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus site in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences site in Edinburgh.

"It will also make recommendations to ensure that any past mistakes are not repeated in future NHS infrastructure projects."

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