Edinburgh's Sick Kids saga likened to city's tram fiasco

MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton wants to know who signed off the building as satisfactory in February.
MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton wants to know who signed off the building as satisfactory in February.
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THE debacle over Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids hospital is on a par with the city’s trams fiasco and may spark a similar inquiry, an MSP has claimed.

Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton said no future public project could be allowed to follow the same path.

The hospital’s opening last month was cancelled at short notice after problems were discovered with the ventilation system, but NHS Lothian is paying developers £1.4 million a month despite the building standing empty.

Mr Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western, said the saga of the repeatedly-delayed hospital - originally expected to open in 2012 - may eventually justify an independent public inquiry similar to the one into what went wrong with the trams.

One key question, he said, was who had certified the new building at Little France as satisfactory in February, when it was handed over from the developer to NHS Lothian, and why they had done so when another inspection shortly before the hospital was due to open revealed the ventilation in the critical care unit did not meet national standards.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Patients and staff need to be reassured that the building they eventually inhabit is up to standard in every sense of that meaning, whether that’s health and safety or structural integrity.

“And to hear that we have senior professionals or key decision makers signing off a building that is not fit for purpose is a worrying reflection on the quality thresholds they employ.”

He has tabled a question in the Scottish Parliament, asking who independently certified and signed off the hospital, who appointed the independent certifier, how long the assessment took, what it involved and whether the Scottish Government and NHS Lothian agreed with the findings.

He said: “It sounds like the February sign-off was more like wishful thinking and political convenience, that the SNP needed this delivered on time and on budget, and it is clear neither of these things will come to pass.

“And I worry this is the tip of the iceberg, that there are other capital projects happening across Scotland which are getting signed off because they need to be signed off by a certain date when they aren’t finished or even safe.

“It’s a staggering waste of public money that we’re paying for a building that is unusable and we may be doing so for the next 18 months.”

Mr Cole-Hamilton said he would be pressing for the Scottish Parliament’s health committee to carry out an inquiry into the decision-making process around the hospital project, the flaws in the design of the building and the failure to deliver to timetable.

“There doesn’t need to be a full public inquiry at this stage but that may be necessary because the order of magnitude of the public funds wasted will be similar to the problems we had over the trams and that absolutely necessitated a public inquiry.

“I want to be clear no future public projects will suffer the same fate.”