Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Health minister offers assurance over Edinburgh's delayed £150m hospital

The new Sick Children's Hospital Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The new hospital has yet to open its doors to patients

Scotland's health secretary has offered assurances over Edinburgh's problem-hit new £150m children's hospital.

Jeane Freeman said work to establish the extent of problems with ventilation and drainage were "on track".

She shared hopes for a phased migration to the new site once safety reports were completed by September.

It comes after a senior trade union official warned the building, which has yet to open its doors to patients, might have to be "ripped down".

The new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, which will have more than 200 beds, was supposed to open in July, but Ms Freeman overruled NHS Lothian after last-minute inspections found safety concerns over its ventilation system.

A full safety review of the new building was commissioned to assess the water, ventilation and drainage systems.

The NHS-led review is due to be finished by September but no opening date for the hospital has been given.

Following concerns over the site, Ms Freeman insisted "we need to deal with facts".

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that she "did not yet know" whether ventilation in critical care would need to be completely replaced.

Image caption The minister said she is "accountable" for what happens in the health service

Ms Freeman explained: "We're on track with the timetable that I set out [in July].

"I think the key thing to do at this point is to work our way through, hear what information we get from the reviews and then determine at that stage, most importantly, whether or not there are areas of the hospital where it is safe to migrate services.

"I just want to be absolutely sure before we move on that we are compliant across all those areas in that new site.

"That compliance, with the exception of the ventilation of the critical care area, will help trigger I hope a phased migration of services into the new hospital from the existing site and indeed from the Western General - but I won't know that until I have results of that work from Health Protection Scotland and Health Facilities Scotland."

Last week BBC Scotland revealed that NHS Lothian was paying millions of pounds to a private consortium for a hospital it cannot use.

'Kept informed'

And while Ms Freeman said issues on drainage were "resolved", Unison Scotland's health committee Tom Waterson said senior staff within NHS Lothian had raised concerns over drainage in the last two or three weeks.

He said the problems date back 18 to 36 months when senior staff were "alerted to shortcomings in the drainage".

But despite that the contractors continued to press ahead with construction.

Ms Freeman said she had asked for a number of "other critical areas" to be double checked to make sure they were compliant with all standards and that would include drainage.

She added "I've been very careful, as I should be, to make sure local MSPs and MPs are kept informed with everything I have done so far and I will inform them as that information becomes available.

"To inform the parliament, I have written to all the staff involved and I have given the staff my absolute personal assurance that when I have the information they will have the information - and of course all of that includes the health and sport committee."

Image caption The new hospital will provide care for children and young people

It is not yet known whether the ventilation in the critical care unit will need to be improved or completely replaced.

However, Ms Freeman said once a cost was established, work would be carried out.

She said: "I don't know the cost just yet because that work I have outlined has to take its course and we have to then deal with facts.

"Once we have the facts about how we replace and improve the existing ventilation then we will have a cost associated with that, and we will do that work.

"Technicians, designers and engineers are working right at this moment to look at what exactly is the right fix for this without unnecessarily disrupting other areas of the build."

Independent reviews

Prof Alex McMahon, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: "There are a number of independent reviews and investigations under way to verify and provide assurance that all aspects of the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services meet the appropriate standards before it becomes operational.

"The decision to delay the move followed the identification of a problem with ventilation in critical care. Given the pause in occupation, the commissioned reviews will focus on ventilation and will also look at drainage and water systems as a priority.

"An Oversight Board, made up of Scottish government, NHS Lothian, National Services Scotland and Scottish Futures Trust, has been established in order to provide co-ordinated advice on the readiness of the hospital to open and on the migration of services to the new facility.

"The reviews and subsequent reports will be provided to the cabinet secretary for health and NHS Lothian."

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