Health bosses face questions over Edinburgh's Sick Kids delay

HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman says the rest of the new children’s hospital should open in phases as efforts continue to fix the problem with the critical care unit’s ventilation system which led to the dramatic last-minute halt to the opening of the new building.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 7:03 pm
The move to the new site was called off on Thursday afternoon
The move to the new site was called off on Thursday afternoon

She said NHS Lothian had been looking at a possible partial opening of the £150 million building or a “work around” for critical care, but she overruled the health board to order the indefinite postponement of the planned move from the current Sick Kids Hospital in Sciennes.

She said she had ordered an investigation and additional safety checks. “I would hope to have the results very soon and make decisions very soon so we have a phased introduction of services into the new hospital.”

But opposition politicians demanded answers on why the problem at the hospital, which was handed over by the contractors to the health board months ago, had not been spotted until the final checks.

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Tory MSP Michelle Ballantyne had quizzed Ms Freeman in the Scottish Parliament about the fitness of the new building. She said: “I asked her the question because I believed it wasn’t safe to open. I believed that very strongly - I had contacts within the system who told me there were problems.

She kept telling us there was no issue.

“She has done the right thing in delaying the opening, but it indicates how poorly all this is being managed that they have to wait right up until the week of the opening to make the decision they are not ready to do it safely.”

Tom Waterson, chair of Unison’s Lothian Health branch, welcomed Ms Freeman’s announcement of an investigation. He said: “I would go further and suggest a public hearing into what went on. For several months we’ve been hearing everything was fine, then 24 hours before the move starts it’s off.

“We have staff in there working already - maintenance, security, porters, domestics. If it’s bad enough to delay opening the hospital, is there an issue for staff already working in there?”

Labour’s Neil Findlay backed the call for a public hearing and said the review of what had gone wrong should be conducted independently. “This has been a very problematic from the outset. We need to know what happened.”