NHS Lothian under pressure to prepare for move to Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital before work is completed

The hospital is scheduled to open in the autumn of this yearThe hospital is scheduled to open in the autumn of this year
The hospital is scheduled to open in the autumn of this year
Similar arrangement in summer was criticised in independent report

HEALTH chiefs in Lothian are under pressure from the Scottish Government to agree final preparations for the move to the new Sick Kids hospital should be carried out while work is still being finished.

The idea has been proposed even though a similar arrangement ahead of the aborted opening in the summer was criticised in an independent report.

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NHS Lothian says good progress is being made on design work to upgrade the ventilation system in critical care - the problem that forced postponement of the opening of the hospital in July.

But there have been claims the revised opening date of autumn this year set by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman is “unrealistic”.

Now the government wants the health board to carry out its “mobilisation and commissioning” phase - which includes informing patients about the change of location for appointments, installing equipment and ensuring staff are familiar with the layout of the new building - at the same time as construction is being completed and final checks being made.

The request was made by the government’s chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen, who heads the oversight board supervising the Sick Kids project.

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After briefing NHS Lothian board members on progress, finance director Susan Goldsmith told them: “The other element we are looking at, at the request of the chair of the oversight board, is can we look at our own mobilisation and commissioning in parallel with the works being completed?

“Board members will be aware that both KPMG and the Auditor General made reference to the fact we did that as part of the settlement agreement and left ourselves no time to complete the testing and assurance, so that request will have to sit alongside a robust risk assessment.”

KPMG, the consultants called in after the opening was halted in the summer to report on how the project had been handled, said that when a settlement agreement was signed by NHS Lothian and the consortium IHSL in February 2019 to resolve differences over several aspects of the project it was known that “significant work” was still required in order to complete the hospital.

Their report continued: “Such works continued into July 2019, including a significant amount of post-completion works.

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“As such, the time available for rectification of any identified problems, prior to the scheduled opening date of the Hospital of July 9, 2019, was challenging and left little margin for error.”

KPMG noted independent testers had issued a certificate of practical completion on the building on February 22, 2019, at which point it was handed over to NHS Lothian, who then began paying IHSL £1.35m a month despite being unable to use the hospital.

The report said: “During this operational phase, a significant number of outstanding works were required to be carried out. In accordance with the settlement agreement, these works were performed in parallel with the NHSL Board’s commissioning activities for the project.”

Engineering company Imtech signed a contract with IHSL in December to carry out the design work for the additional ventilation needed in critical care to bring it up to the required standard and the company is expected to carry out the construction as well.

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But Ms Goldsmith said until the design work was completed no timetable could be set.

Board member and city GP Dr Richard Williams said the board promoted a culture of acknowledging errors and learning from them

“I think it’s fair to say that it was understandable, but an error in the past when we tried to commission services at the same time as the evaluation.

“I think as a board we would be keen this time round to learn from that and really ensure quality, safety, rigour of testing before we tried to commission services.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The oversight board is working with NHS Lothian to ensure the issues raised regarding the simultaneous delivery of commissioning and mobilisation in the past project which were identified in the KPMG report have been acted upon.

“We are confident that these specific issues will not be a concern in future and we look forward to the hospital opening safely.”