Call for "heads to roll" over Edinburgh's Sick Kids debacle

TORIES today called for "heads to roll" over the debacle of Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital.

Thursday, 12th September 2019, 1:15 pm
The much-delayed new hospital will not open until autumn next year.

At First Minister's Question in the Scottish Parliament, interim Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said the Scottish Government's action on the much-delayed hospital, now due to open next autumn, was "too little, too late."

He said: "Formally proposed in 2008, originally scheduled to be open by 2013, the Sick Kids Hospital has been repeatedly delayed - four health secretaries, blunders, cost overruns. Yet it was only yesterday the Scottish Government decides to appoint a troubleshooter to sort this mess out.

"You didn't need to be a high-ranking government minister to know there were major problems with this vital project going back years - you just had to read a newspaper. Yet we've had a Scottish Government with its head buried in the sand."

Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to make clear the situation with the Sick Kids was "unacceptable".

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And she continued: "To say that I and the Health Secretary are angry about this situation would be an understatement and I know that anger is shared by patients and staff."

But she stressed: "We will not allow the hospital to open until we are satisfied about patient safety. There is an absolute focus on making sure the problems are rectified and I think that's what public, patients and staff would expect to see for the Scottish Government."

Mr Carlaw said it seemed four successive health ministers "chose not to know or simply failed to ask" about the full extent of the problems with the project until "way, way too late".

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He said: "Since January 2013, when the new Sick Kids was supposed to open, over 300,000 children have been denied access to the new hospital that they and their parents were entitled to expect in A&E alone.

"This is a saga from which no-one emerges well - not the heath board, not the contractor and certainly not this government.

"It is a saga that is all too predictable - ministerial assurances given, completion dates put back, costs spiral out of control and at the end of it all it seems absolutely nobody is held to account. I think the country thinks that for once heads should roll."

Ms Sturgeon insisted previous issues had been resolved and the problem with the ventilation system in the critical care unit - the cause of the latest delay - only came to light at the start of July.

Ms Sturgeon said the focus was on rectifying the problems at the hospital. And she said: "The Health Secretary set out the work that will be done to establish issues of accountability within the health board and it is important that is done in line with due process.

"Lessons absolutely have to be learned from this. I very much agree this is a completely unacceptable situation but our focus will remain patient safety and that should be the priority."

Labour leader Richard Leonard pointed to a question asked months ago by Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson on whether problems with the Sick Kids coupled with issues at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow pointed to wider problems with hospital building and procurement.

Ms Freeman had rejected the suggestion and accused Mr Johnson of being "wide of the mark".

Mr Leonard said the reports on the hospital published yesterday showed the Scottish Government was represented on the board for the project and frequent meetings were held between NHS Lothian and the government to "allow the Health Secretary to be briefed".

And he said to restore public trust there should be a full public inquiry into "this abject failure of governance and government".