Scottish Hospital Inquiry: Edinburgh's Sick Kids delay meant 5,000 outpatient appointments rescheduled

Thousands of outpatient appointments and hundreds of operations had to be rearranged when the Scottish Government decided to cancel the planned opening of Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids hospital in 2019, a public inquiry has been told.

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On the first day of public hearings at the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry, which is looking into problems with both the Sick Kids and Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus, NHS Lothian submitted a written opening statement detailing the last-minute decision to halt the opening after ventilation was found to be below the required standard.

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It said the new hospital was due to open at Little France on Tuesday July 9, 2019. “Testing carried out in late June 2019 by IOM, a specialist ventilation consultancy commissioned by NHS Lothian, identified that there were only four (instead of 10) air changes per hour in some of the bedrooms in paediatric critical care.

"NHS Lothian’s executive team was first made aware of this ventilation issue on the evening of Monday, 1 July. Meetings and discussions took place, both internally and externally with Scottish Government and its agencies over the course of the next two days to assess the implications of this discovery.

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“During 4 July, Scottish Government made the decision that the new hospital would not open on 9 July and that no services would move.”

The statement said the new hospital had just over 5,000 outpatient appointments and 330 theatre procedures scheduled for July, August and September 2019. Patients were phoned to tell them not to go to the new building but to attend the old hospital at Sciennes. All those with July appointments were contacted within two to three weeks.

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"Revised appointment letters were also issued notifying patients of the new location of their appointments. It was NHS Lothian’s strategy to retain the original date and time of appointment with only the location changed. In the vast majority of cases, this was achieved.”

A telephone helpline was set up and staff were based at the new hospital to direct anyone who turned up there to the old hospital.

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"Services at the existing facilities were flexible to accommodate any patients who mistakenly attended the wrong location to ensure they were able to access the care they required.”

The paid advertising campaign that had been running to promote the opening of the new hospital, particularly the move of A&E services, was cancelled and the radio campaign was switched to advertising the delay.

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“As a result of mitigation measures adopted by NHS Lothian, out of over 5,000 children’s scheduled care appointments, fewer than 20 patients attended the wrong hospital site over a period of months. However, these patients were signposted to the correct hospital, offered transport if required, and were seen by the relevant clinician.”

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The statement said it was “obviously regrettable” that the issues with the new hospital were identified at such a late stage.

It added: “NHS Lothian is keen to assist the Inquiry in trying to determine why that was the case and what lessons can be learned to prevent that happening in any future public infrastructure projects.

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“NHS Lothian believes the actions taken following discovery of the problems ensured that the quality of patient care and safety was not put at risk and any inconvenience to patients was minimised.”

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