NHS Lothian 'confident' Sick Kids Hospital sale will go ahead despite delays

HEALTH bosses are “confident” the sale of the former Sick Kids Hospital will not fall through – despite no opening date for the problem-hit replacement building.

By David Bol
Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 1:21 pm
The old Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage
The old Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh. Picture: Jon Savage

The opening of the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children, built at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh site, was halted by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman last month amid concerns over the its construction and ventilation – while an extra £80 million has been spent on “enabling and equipment works” at the site.

NHS Lothian’s director of finances, Susan Goldsmith, apologised to patients and staff for the delays and uncertainty – and said that a “phased occupancy is being considered”.

In 2017, NHS Lothian agreed to sell the current Sick Kids Hospital building on Sciennes Road to Liverpool developers Downing – who won planning permission in February to turn the site into student and residential accommodation. The winning bid for the building that dates back to 1863 was believed to be in the region of £20m.

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The new Royal Hospital for Children in Edinburgh

Board members quizzed financial bosses whether the sale was still set to go ahead.

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Delayed Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital will cost an extra £90 million

Ms Goldsmith said: ” There is obviously a cost of running both sites.

“We have been in constant dialogue with the purchaser. We have been working in partnership with them and at the moment I’m confident the sale is secure and we will continue with that developer.”

Redevelopment plans for the former Sick Kids Hospital on Sciennes Road, Edinburgh

She added: “I would like to stress how sorry and devastated we are that patients and staff are not able to move into what is and will be a fantastic new facility. I would also like to apologise on the team’s behalf.

Above all the hospital requires to be safe and that’s what we are focusing on at the moment.”

Consultants KPMG have been hired by the Scottish Government to investigate “governance arrangements” for the new hospital and work out why the new hospital was delayed.

Ms Goldsmith reiterated that no timetable for the new hospital opening was available yet.

She said: “The work that KPMG are doing is due to be complete very shortly – maybe sometime next week. They have interviewed an extensive number of individuals and taken a very professional approach.

“[The other reports] will not be completed until early September – meaning that any decision on a phased migration of the building can not be made until then.

“It’s just not possible at this point to give any indication of a timeline for any migration into the hospital. Everyone is working as hard as they can to try and get this resolved but because of the nature of the work, it’s going to take a bit of time.”

Bosses also admitted that future big infrastructure projects will need more technical support.

Ms Goldsmith added: “One of the lessons from this is the need for a level of technical support we haven't anticipated before.

“For all projects, we are going to have to reassess what level of complex technical support we have.”

Chairman of NHS Lothian, Brian Houston, paid thanks to staff following the delays to the new building – claiming the saga was “a highly complex and sensitive situation”.

He added: “I don’t think I can understate the level of disappointment we as board members felt – in particular the impact it had immediately on staff.

“We should also record our gratitude and admiration for the way that staff have reacted to this, which has been quite remarkable despite the initial obvious shock and disruption. They have buckled down and got on with it. They are running the shop – business as usual.”