NHS Lothian nearly took Sick Kids consortium to court over ventilation last year

HEALTH bosses in Lothian were set to take legal action last year against the consortium building the new Sick Kids hospital over ventilation standards - the issue now at the centre of the 12-month delay in opening the new hospital.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 6:00 am
The new Sick Kids hospital is now not due to open until next autumn

Minutes of NHS Lothian’s programme board overseeing the project reveal that in March 2018 the go-ahead was given to seek a court order to force IHSL [Integrated Health Solutions Lothian] to design and install a ventilation system which complied with the required standards.

Noting the decision was made at an extraordinary meeting of the health board’s finance and resources committee, the minutes continue: “Written to IHSL on 13 March to inform them of this position. IT [independent tester] remains supportive of the board position. Project team preparing legal documents. Scottish Government is supportive of the board approach.”

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However, that particular failing was not known in 2018 and the matter which prompted the threat of legal action was different.

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The minutes record a disagreement between NHS Lothian and the consortium over ventilation requirements for four-bed rooms - but not specifically those in critical care.

And the focus of the row was on air pressure rather than air changes. The consortium had designed the pressure in four-bed rooms to be higher than in the corridor outside but the board wanted it to be the same or lower.

The minutes added: “The Independent Tester is expected to confirm that completion cannot be authorised with the current four bed ventilation as currently installed and designed.”

At the same meeting, it was reported: “IHSL have made allegations that NHSL are making undue representations to the Independent Tester. NHSL have strongly refuted these claims in a written response, having taken legal advice.”

But by May 2018, the legal threat had been dropped. The minutes said: “Following court action preparation being completed and shared with Project Co a commercial proposal was submitted and court proceedings not progressed at this time. Project Team working closely with Multiplex and IHSL to deliver facility to standards required.”