Edinburgh's Sick Kids hospital: public inquiry details to be announced before Christmas
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman says probe will look at need for increased independent assessment of building projects
DETAILS of the public inquiry into what went wrong with Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids hospital are due to be revealed before Christmas.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs she hoped to announce who will lead the inquiry before the Scottish Parliament goes into recess on December 19 and the final remit and its start date shortly afterwards.
The opening of the £150 million new hospital at Little France was halted at the last minute in July after it was found the ventilation system in the critical care unit did not meet national standards. Further checks have since uncovered other issues and the opening has been rescheduled for next autumn.
Appearing before the parliament’s health committee, Ms Freeman was asked by Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton why the ventilation problem had not been identified sooner and whether there should be increased independent assessment during such building projects.
Ms Freeman said: “Independent assessment does happen throughout the build at a number of key points.
“But one of the things the inquiry has to look at is what more can we do; is the nature of independent assessment sufficient to give assurance or should we require more from independent assessment; what more needs to be done, if anything, in the terms of the frequency of independent assessment; where that report then goes; and then the requirement on the receiver of that report to act.
Labour’s David Stewart pointed to a report by NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) which identified major deviations from the guidelines in electrical systems and fire systems at the hospital and recommended action to include smoke dampers in the ventilation system.
He said: “By definition hospitals have a lot of vulnerable patients. The fact we’ve got faults in the fire system is obviously extremely worrying.”
He asked if the problem was down to contractors Multiplex or due to mistakes in the tender document.
Ms Freeman said: “I think the proper way for that answer to be found is through the public inquiry.
”We need to remember the board received a fire certificate for this site and what NSS said was there was the opportunity for improvement steps.”
But she added: “I need to be really clear - I’m not defending this. I’m not saying it was all fine. If I thought it was all fine I wouldn’t have commissioned NSS to do two major pieces of work. And self-evidently from their reports there is more work to be done.”
Mr Stewart also asked who would fund the remedial works. “Will it be the contractor or will it be NHS Lothian on the basis they accepted the handover of the building?”
Ms Freeman said the Scottish Government would fund them initially to ensure they were done. “Whether or not there is then any redress against any party is absolutely for the public inquiry to determine.”