EDINBURGH’S new Sick Kids Hospital will not open for another year, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.
An NHS investigation found further issues with ventilation, water and drainage systems at the new £150 million hospital in addition to the ventilation problem in the critical care unit which led Ms Freeman to order a last-minute cancellation of the planned opening in July.
She told MSPs yesterday the remedial work required would cost an extra £16m - which will be met by her department - and the “double running” of the current Sick Kids and the new building at Little France was costing between £6m and £7m. That is on top of the £1.35m NHS Lothian is having to pay every month to the consortium which built the hospital.
Ms Freeman also announced the Scottish Government was sending in a senior programme director to NHS Lothian to take over the running of the project until the building is fully opened.
She told the parliament her overriding priority was patient safety.
She said: “The work will be carried out as quickly as possible, but to ensure it is done properly and to give maximum certainty to staff and patients I have concluded that children’s services will remain on the current site, until next autumn.”
But she said the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, due to be transferred to the new site from the Western General, should move next spring.
Ms Freeman said a separate report by consultants KPMG on governance of the project set out “a clear picture of human error and confusion over interpretation of standards and guidance and missed opportunities to spot and rectify that error”.
KPMG found a key tender document in 2012 gave the wrong specification for critical care ventilation, but later versions of the document corrected this and it was not picked up.
The NHS report said remedial action was required within the hospital’s ventilation and water systems prior to occupation.
On ventilation, in addition to the critical care unit, work was required within both general and theatre ventilation systems with specific risks identified in haematology/oncology.
Testing identified no widespread contamination of the water systems but the pseudomonas bacteria had been found in some taps and system -wide disinfection was advised.
The report also recommended active monitoring of the drainage system. “The main concern is the pumped system in the basement, in the vicinity of the kitchen, may fail. The risk is that if these fail the kitchen drains will back up requiring the kitchen to close, which would have an impact on food services to the hospital. Extensive use of standby equipment and power supplies is in place, such that multiple failures would need to occur to cause sewage to back up into the basement.”
Ms Freeman told MSPs: “This is a publicly funded project of strategic importance, which has not been delivered by NHS Lothian in compliance with the standards and guidance. That is unacceptable. There are clearly issues to be considered now about accountability within the board.”
Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs accused Ms Freeman of trying to absolve SNP ministers from any responsibility for seven years of delay - the hospital was originally planned for 2012. And he said it looked like she intended to “hang NHS managers out for this problem”.
Mr Briggs claimed staff and families would be sceptical about whether the hospital really would open next autumn. “They’ve been promised – year after year – that new timescales will be adhered to, and they’ve been repeatedly let down.”
Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon called for a full public inquiry, but Ms Freeman said she did not see what difference an inquiry would make.
Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton also urged an inquiry, saying the delay of a year was “shocking”.
“Millions and millions of pounds are being chucked down the drain because this project has been so badly mismanaged. While repairs are underway, children will have to receive treatment in existing facilities which are past their sell-by date.”
The call for a public inquiry was also echoed by Tom Waterson, branch chair for health union Unison. He said: “We need an inquiry into this whole fiasco to find out who knew what and when. Even after the most recent KPMG report we still don’t know if, for example, the drainage system is fit for purpose.”
He said staff were frustrated and labelled the delay until autumn 2020 “simply unacceptable”.
Mr Waterson also criticised the cost to the public purse. “This is money that should have been spent on patient care. Why are patients, staff and tax payers being penalised for these errors? This fiasco shows the weakness of the Scottish Governments’ private finance system. It cannot be allowed to happen again.”
Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnson challenged Ms Freeman over the private finance arrangement. “Her government’s non-profit distributing model, just like PFI before it, means it’s the public that picks up the cost when things go wrong.”
But Ms Freeman said there was nothing in the reports to suggest the funding model was to blame.
She also told MSPs the location of outpatients at the current Sick Kids in Sciennes was being looked at in a bid to create extra pace for the hospital’s A&E department.
READ MORE: Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital: the story so far