Fears over sub-standard ventilation at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary

A TRADE union has raised concerns about sub-standard ventilation at Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary after similar problems caused the opening of the new children’s hospital next door to be halted at the last minute.

Monday, 15th July 2019, 5:57 pm
Updated Monday, 15th July 2019, 6:57 pm
The sub-standard ventilation has been known about for four years

Unison says it has been known for four years that the ventilation system at a unit in the infirmary’s gynaecological department provides under half the number of air changes per hour required - but nothing has been done.

The opening of the replacement for Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital - due a week ago - was postponed indefinitely because the ventilation in the critical care unit did not meet national standards.

Now Unison is to write to health chiefs voicing concerns about the ventilation in the infirmary’s colposcopy unit, which uses heat in its procedures to detect and treat cervical problems.

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Unison branch chair Tom Waterson said there was a report produced in 2015 which showed the ventilation was not up to standard.

He said: “We’re writing to NHS Lothian asking for reassurances over ventilation, not just at the Sick Kids, but also the Royal Infirmary and other hospitals. We need to know they are all meeting the required standards.

“If this issue was serious enough to stop the new hospital opening, it has to be a matter of concern at the infirmary too.”

A union source said staff had raised the issue of the colposcopy unit with hospital management five years ago.

“They wouldn’t listen at first but eventually health and safety got involved and they did ventilation checks.

“The ventilation in colposcopy should be 15 air changes per hour because of the procedures carried out, in line with operating theatres.

“But when checks were done it was actually six or seven times an hour. Nothing has been done since then.

“Although there is no risk to patients there is a minimal risk to staff because of airborne particles coming from the machine.

“A few of the staff do have eye conditions and respiratory problems. They don’t know if it’s connected, though it does seem to be worse when they’re in there.”

The union source said there was a reasonably straightforward solution to the problem and it was estimated it would cost between £20,000 and £30,000. “They could change the ventilation but they would need to knock a hole through to another department next door and they say that would disrupt them.”

And the source said there would be the further issue of whether the cost should be met by the NHS or Consort, the PFI consortium which built and maintains the hospital.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was evidence of sub-standard building conditions putting health and safety at risk.

He said: “The fact this was known about four years ago and nothing was done is astonishing and requires urgent clarification and investigation.”

NHS Lothian and Consort both said they were unable to comment.