NHS crisis: SNP to run all hospital building projects
THE Scottish Government will take over from health boards in managing new-build hospital projects, the Health Secretary said yesterday.
Jeane Freeman said the current responsibility for health service managers to oversee constructions will be ‘shifted’ to government officials.
Appearing before MSPs, she said health boards often lack the ‘expertise’ to oversee major building projects.
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow is at the centre of an investigation after the deaths of four patients were linked to infections caught at the site.
Two died after being infected with a bug linked to pigeon droppings. One died from another infection and the death of a ten-year-old girl, Milly Main, has been linked to contaminated water.
The opening of the Royal Hospital for Children in Edinburgh has been delayed until next autumn because its ventilation system did not meet standards.
Probes are under way into the deaths – an independent review of the QEUH and a public inquiry into both hospitals that could result in criminal proceedings or a fatal accident inquiry.
Water contamination is one of the issues being examined. Tests in 2018 showed widespread bacterial contamination of the water supply at the QEUH campus although the health board insists the water is safe.
Bacteria in the general environment do not cause a threat to healthy people but
‘I implore you to take control’
can cause problems in those with a poor immune system, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Appearing before MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee yesterday, Miss Freeman said a national centre of expertise will oversee future hospital builds.
She added: ‘The way in which major infrastructure builds are conducted is that boards have a significant responsibility in that area and they bring in additional expertise.
‘For any board, that will be a once-in-a-lifetime exercise, so there isn’t necessarily the expertise inside the board.
‘We will remove that responsibility from boards. They will still have a significant responsibility in identifying local need and design, but we need to have the expertise in a central place across contract negotiation, design, compliance, build, maintenance and other areas.’
She said a public inquiry into the two hospitals will appoint its head by Christmas.
Concerns over contaminated water at the QEUH campus forced the closure of two wards at the children’s hospital in September last year.
Milly’s mother, Kimberly Darroch, has said she was not told the reason for her daughter’s death at the hospital in 2017 but is ‘100 per cent’ certain it was due to contaminated water.
Asked about the issue of water contamination at the QEUH campus, Miss Freeman said: ‘It is my understanding that the current independent review has taken evidence on that, and that is part of what they are considering.’
The death of a three-year-old boy in the same month as Milly is being investigated by the Crown Office.
The Health Secretary said on Monday she was open to Government intervention in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC).
Miss Freeman is due to make a ministerial statement on the
QEUH today following disclosures about Milly’s death. Last night, Labour MSP Anas Sarwar wrote to Miss Freeman urging her to take charge of NHSGGC. He said: ‘They cannot be left to investigate themselves. I implore you to please take control of this situation and put them into special measures.’
Fresh troubles have emerged at the QEUH. Its heating broke down on Saturday and patients were given extra blankets and mobile heaters while engineers worked.
QEUH bosses are installing a temporary minor injuries unit to take pressure off its A&E department this winter. The ‘modular building’ is expected to be in place before Christmas.
Graham Grant – Page 18
Under pressure: Health Secretary Jeane Freeman appearing before the health committee at Holyrood yesterday
Infection: Milly and mum Kimberly