Health secretary Jeane Freeman faces resignation call over child death

Media caption,
Jeane Freeman has said she did not make details of the child's death public due to patient confidentiality

The health secretary is facing a call to resign after it emerged a child's death at a Glasgow hospital could be linked to contaminated water.

The child died in 2017 while being treated at the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) and Ms Freeman learned of the case in September.

She said she acted on the information but did not make details public because of patient confidentiality.

The Scottish Conservatives said she should resign or be sacked.

The case - which was brought to light by an NHS whistleblower - was highlighted during First Minister's Questions on Thursday by Scottish Labour MSP Anas Sarwar.

Image source, Ken Jack
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MSP Anas Sarwar accused the Scottish government of a "cover-up"

While it was known there were a number of possible water-related infections in 2018, he said a clinician-led investigation had found up to 26 further potential cases on the cancer ward in 2017 including one child who had died.

Describing it as a "cover up", he claimed the child's parents had been left in the dark about the possible link between the death and bacteria in the water at the hospital.

Greater Glasgow Health Board insists a link between the infection and the hospital cannot be proven because regulations at the time did not require water testing.

The Scottish government said Ms Freeman was contacted by a bereaved parent in September and she arranged for a representative of the health board to make urgent contact with them to ensure their questions were answered.

Image source, Getty Images

The case is the latest in a series of problems to hit the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children which share a campus in Glasgow.

In January it emerged two people had died at the QEUH after contracting an infection linked to pigeon droppings. Ms Freeman recently announced a public inquiry into construction issues at both the Glasgow "super hospital" site and the new children's hospital in Edinburgh.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "There's no way Jeane Freeman can continue in the role now the details of this case have been made clear.

"It should not take a whistleblower and an opposition MSP to drag the truth out of this SNP government. It's completely unacceptable.

"Patients will be absolutely furious that such a serious failure has been covered up by this SNP government.

"The health secretary must apologise to the family and resign or, if she refuses, be sacked."

Earlier this year a Health Protection Scotland investigation identified 23 potential cases of water-linked infection at the RHC during 2018, but details of the review looking at earlier possible cases were not disclosed.

Ms Freeman said on Thursday said she deeply regretted that the parents felt they not been given the information "they have a perfect right to receive and are entitled to".

She added: "They have my commitment to act to ensure that situation does not happen to parents in the future.

"I don't regret honouring patient confidentiality. But upholding patient confidentiality does not mean I don't act on the information I am given."

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