Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital: Children '24 hours away from being moved into death trap'

Latest expert report reveals smoke dampers were not fitted in corridors meant to be escape route

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:59 am

A NEW report on the Capital’s delayed Sick Kids hospital shows children were 24 hours away from being moved into a deathtrap, an MSP has claimed.

The report reveals smoke dampers had not been fitted in corridors serving sleeping accommodation, creating a risk that, if there was a fire, smoke could travel through the ventilation system and affect escape routes.

The £150m new hospital was due to open in July but the transfer of patients was called off at the last minute after it was discovered the ventilation in critical care was not up to standard.

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The new 150m building at Little France is standing empty and patients are being treated at the existing hospital at Sciennes.

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Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the revelations about the lack of smoke dampers was shocking.

He said: “It is now clear this project has been riddled with problems from the outset and patients were just 24 hours from being moved into a potential deathtrap. The first consideration in the design and build of any major construction like a hospital should be the safety of people that use it.”

And he called on NHS Lothian to use the year before the hospital’s new opening date to fit the smoke dampers as a matter of urgency.

The hospital was due to open in July but that has now been rescheduled for next autumn.

Lothian MSP and Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs echoed his concern. “It shows how close we were to putting patients, NHS staff and families in potential harm’s way.

And Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “The particular issue of the lack of smoke dampers in key areas, leading to the possibility of smoke in sleeping accommodation, raises a potentially lethal flaw in a building that was supposed to be complete and ready to be used by the public.”

Tom Waterson, branch chair for health union Unison, said he was concerned patients had been about to move into a hospital that was not safe. He said: “A state of the art hospital should be just that and have all the latest health and safety devices.”

The report also noted the hospital’s three emergency power supplies were in the same room, “reducing resilience if there was a major failure”. And it said action was needed to guard against the loss of electricity supply to critical services such as life support.

NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Waterson said the report raised no new substantive compliance issues that would affect the timeline. Ventilation in critical care remained the key issue, he said. “We are also carefully risk assessing possible further enhancements that can be achieved without affecting the current timeline.”