Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital will be focus of inquiry hearings in May

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The public inquiry into two flagship Scottish hospitals will hold its next hearings in May, focusing on ventilation and the background to Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital.

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Lord Brodie, chair of the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry, has earmarked three weeks for the hearings starting on May 9.

So far, the inquiry has dealt mainly with the issues at Glasgow' s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) where two patients died after contracting an infection linked to pigeon droppings and thought to have been spread via contaminated air vents.

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The new Sick Kids hospital finally opened fully in March 2021.  Picture: Scott Louden.The new Sick Kids hospital finally opened fully in March 2021.  Picture: Scott Louden.
The new Sick Kids hospital finally opened fully in March 2021. Picture: Scott Louden.

The new Sick Kids hospital at Little France found itself at the centre of controversy after repeated delays culminating in the last-minute cancellation of its opening in July 2019 when the ventilation was found to be below standard. The then Health Secretary Jeane Freeman ordered further checks which uncovered other issues and the hospital only became fully operational in March 2021.

At a procedural hearing on Tuesday morning, John MacGregor QC, deputy counsel to the inquiry, said the hearings in May would take evidence in the first week on the theory and practice of ventilation in hospitals and then in the other two weeks on the background to the new Sick Kids, officially known as Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP).

He said: "The issues I intend to cover in theme one will seek to introduce the technical requirements for a hospital ventilation system and the role that plays in patient safety and care."

These matters would provide context for the wider work of the inquiry at subsequent hearings.

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"The May diet will not consider any specific issues in relation to the planning, design, construction, commissioning and maintenance of the QUEH or the RHCYP, but the issues to be covered will potentially be relevant to both hospitals.

"The issues to be covered in theme two concern the background to the project for the RHCYP, the key decisions taken in the period up to the commencement of the procurement exercise. However, the procurement exercise itself will not be covered at the May hearings."

Mr MacGregor said 13 issues had been listed as relevant in looking at the project's background, including how key decisions were made, the development of the business case, the oversight structures in place throughout the preliminary stages of the project and the switch from direct government funding to a Non-Profit Distributing model, the Scottish Government's replacement for the controversial PFI system.

He said the period from the procurement exercise for the new Sick Kids to the "financial close" of the project would be considered at a two-week hearing scheduled for October 3.

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Lord Brodie said the hearings would be live-streamed but it was hoped those taking part would attend in-person.

He said: "The visible part of the inquiry’s work are the hearings. However the greater part of the work of the inquiry is the preparation and investigation which are necessary before evidence can be led at a hearing.

"If there is anyone, perhaps those with professional connections to the issues set out in the inquiry’s terms of reference, who have information to provide to us, I would encourage them to get in touch.”

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