Edinburgh's new Sick Kids should finally be fully open by March 23, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman tells MSPs

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Edinburgh’s much-delayed new Sick Kids hospital should be fully open by March 23, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has told MSPs.

She said the completion date for work on the £150 million building next to the Royal Infirmary at Little France had slipped by two weeks to February 8 due to a key engineering team having to self-isolate.

The opening of the hospital – which had already suffered repeated delays – was cancelled at the last minute in July last year after it was discovered ventilation in critical care areas did not meet national standards.

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Work on the building is still under way, but Ms Freeman said Mmny services had already transferred from the current Sick Kids at Sciennes to the new hospital, and remaining departments, including accident and emergency, were now expected to move by the weekend of March 22/23 to “a safe, effective and highly valued site offering the best of new design and new technologies for the children of Lothian”.

Exterior of new Sick Kids Hospital

Scott LoudenExterior of new Sick Kids Hospital

Scott Louden
Exterior of new Sick Kids Hospital Scott Louden

She said the transfer timetable be subject to the caveat that clinical teams were content it was the right and safe time to make the move.

Ms Freeman was answering a topical question from Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton on when the opening of the new hospital would be completed.

She noted that in May last year she had told parliament work was expected to be completed by January 25, but warned Covid-19 may cause delays.

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"As a result of a key enegineering team needing to self-isolate for two weeks and other Covid-related amendments to working practices the completion date of the hospital has been delayed by two weeks until February 8."

The new hospital should have opened last July - now it will be MarchThe new hospital should have opened last July - now it will be March
The new hospital should have opened last July - now it will be March

She said a number of services, including outpatients, had transferred to the new site in May, others had moved in July, over the summer and earlier this month.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said the latest delay would not come as much of a surprise to those who had been waiting years already. “There is a lot for the public inquiry to get to the bottom of, but I'm hopeful the end of this building saga is now in site so we can get on with treating people in a better setting.”

He said transferring services in winter could be tough at the best of times and asked how the government would ensure the move happened smoothly amid the pandemic.

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Ms Freeman said: “The final transfer of services will be made exactly as all the others have been up until now, that is in direct consultation with the clinical teams involved and in a timescale and a manner they are content with in terms of patient safety and all the other demands on their time."

Mr Cole-Hamilton asked whether the government had explored retaining the old building until the pandemic was over in case extra capacity was needed. “Have any discussions taken place with the site developers who might understandably be eager to get to work?”

Ms Freeman said there would be discussions to ensure “maximum flexibility without unnecessary additional costs”.

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