Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh Sick Children's Hospital: Minister 'accountable' after delay

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children Pic: Susie Forrest

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said she is "accountable" for what happens in the health service, after a last-minute delay in opening a hospital.

The new Sick Children's Hospital in Edinburgh has problems with its ventilation system.

The £150m building in Little France was due to open on Tuesday, but is now subject to indefinite delays.

The announcement was made the day before patients and equipment were to begin moving to the site.

Last-minute inspections found national safety standards were not being met in the critical care wards.

Ms Freeman told The Nine: "At the end of the day, I am accountable for what happens in our health service and it will be for others to decide whether, at the end of the day, I am ultimately responsible for what has happened here.

"I don't believe that is the case but that is not my decision.

"That is a decision for others."

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

Ms Freeman has directed the health board to act as quickly as possible to ensure all aspects of the hospital, including the ventilation system, meet the necessary national standards.

NHS Lothian has been instructed to set out their plan to phase the move from the old hospital to the new site once it is safe to do so.

Ms Freeman said: "There is no greater responsibility of the NHS than to ensure the clinical safety of their patients, not least when those patients are children.

"In order to be absolutely sure that patient safety is delivered, I have no choice but to postpone NHS Lothian's planned move to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.

"It is vital that patient safety remains paramount, which is why I have asked the health board to stop all moves until assurances have been given that the new site is entirely compliant with the relevant health technical standards."

Image caption The new hospital had been due to open in autumn 2017

The minister has also asked for an investigation as to why the problem was only identified five days before the official opening.

She added: "While this issue has been caught by the final safety checks, I am disappointed and deeply concerned that this was not identified earlier.

"I have asked that Health Facilities Scotland undertake an investigation to determine how the hospital got to this advanced stage before it was discovered that the ventilation system fell below the standards expected. This work will cover both technical and governance aspects of the project.

"We will continue to be in close contact with the health board throughout this period to ensure the health and safety of patients remains the key focus."

Image caption Tim Davison, NHS Lothian chief executive at the new The Royal Hospital for Sick Children

NHS Lothian chief executive, Tim Davison said: "Patient safety is paramount, and following the handover of the new hospital NHS Lothian has continued to monitor facilities at the new site to ensure all systems are operating to national standards.

"Following advice from an independent advisor, I fully accept the Health Secretary's decision to reschedule the move to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.

"The air environment is extremely important and can help prevent the occurrence and spread of infection in patients who are already vulnerable.

"We are extremely disappointed that we cannot move as planned and I am very sorry for the disappointment this will cause to patients, their families and staff affected by this delay. However, patient safety must always come first."

'Simply unacceptable'

Unison Scotland expressed disappointment at the timing of the move.

Thomas Waterson, chair of the union's Scottish health committee, said: "We are shocked that this announcement has come at such a late stage and frustrated that the cabinet secretary for health has put out a press release before any staff had been informed.

"Obviously patient safety is paramount but if there are health and safety issues then the appropriate action was required long before this late stage.

"The Scottish government has spent years planning this move, so to have further delays, particularly at this late stage, for health and safety is simply unacceptable."

The new 233-bed hospital will form part of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh campus, providing care for children and young people to around 16 years of age.

Last month BBC Scotland was allowed inside for a preview of the new hospital.

The new hospital had been due to open in 2017 but a series of problems pushed that back.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites