Decision next week on when Edinburgh's new Sick Kids Hospital will open

HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman will announce next week when Edinburgh's new Sick Kids Hospital will finally open its doors.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 5:19 pm
A new national body will be set up to oversee similar NHS projects in future.

She told MSPs the reports she has commissioned on problems with the £150 million building will be published on September 11 and she will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament the same day, including a "timeline" for transferring services to the new hospital.

Ms Freeman ordered a last-minute halt to the planned opening of the hospital in early July after it was found the ventilation system in the critical care unit did not meet national standards. She also instructed further checks on other aspects of the project, particularly drainage, ventilation and water supply and a second report on the governance of the project.

She promised MSPs this afternoon she would be transparent with the information she received and the decisions she took.

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Ms Freeman said she would publish the reports into the Sick Kids next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon used her programme for government to announce plans to set up a new body to oversee major NHS infrastructure developments across the country.

The move came after claims health boards did not necessarily have the expertise to be in charge of large and expensive building projects.

The problems with the 233-bed Edinburgh hospital followed hot on the heels of a series of issues which affected Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which was built by the same contractor, Multiplex.

Ms Freeman came under pressure over the delayed opening as soon as MSPs returned to the Holyrood chamber this afternoon.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton asked when it was going to open and called for a public inquiry.

He said: "The opening of this flagship hospital was cancelled 100 hours before patients were due to arrive and we still don't know when it will open. "Somebody in the food chain signed this hospital off in February, which seemingly absolves Multiplex of any contractual responsibility. Who signed this off? And did the Government and NHS Lothian agree with their decision at the time?"

And he continued: "This unopened hospital is costing the public purse £1.4m every month. Children are being treated in a hospital that is well past its sell-by date and we are not entirely sure what went wrong. Questions are once again being asked about this government's ability to deliver major capital projects, Will the Health Secretary today instruct a full public inquiry into this fiasco?"

Ms Freeman said she would not order an inquiry

But she said: "I have commissioned two reports. They are on track to be published next week and I will make a statement to parliament at that point.

"At that time all of the information I have available to me will be available to this chamber and we will be able to answer some of those detailed questions, including giving a clear timeline of when we expect the move to the new site to be made safely for both patients. staff and the families involved."

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Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said the impact of the Sick Kids' delayed opening raised serious questions about the financial sustainability of NHS Lothian, which was already projecting a financial shortfall of £29.5 million for this financial year.

And he asked: "Will SNP ministers help meet future costs around the Sick Kids project?"

Ms Freeman said: "I have been very clear from the outset that cost will not hold us back in ensuring the new hospital is fit for purpose and is safe for patients and staff .

"At this point it is not absolutely clear what the additional costs might be as the work continues to identify exactly what is the design, procurement and installation of the work needed in critical care.

"Of course if government assists with those costs members have to be very clear that comes from within the NHS portfolio so there will be other aspects of healthcare across Scotland that may be required to be paused, delayed or moved on in order to meet any additional costs."

Revealing plans to introduce new national oversight for projects like the Sick Kids, Ms Sturgeon said: "In the light of the situation with the new children's hospital in edinburgh I can confirm that we will establish a new body to oversee NHS infrastructure developments."

The programme for government document spelled out the new body's remit: "Patient safety is paramount – we will establish a national body with responsibility for the oversight of the design, construction and maintenance of major infrastructure developments within NHS Scotland. It is likely to involve a compliance function to ensure that construction and future maintenance is in line with statutory and other guidance."