New children's hospital in Edinburgh delayed until at least next year

11 September 2019, 17:38 | Updated: 13 September 2019, 12:14

National Health Service
National Health Service. Picture: Getty

A new flagship children's hospital hit by safety concerns will not open until at least next year, it has been confirmed.

The Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) in Edinburgh had been due to open in July but an inspection of the site found problems with ventilation and water systems, causing the opening to be delayed.

The delay is expected to come at an additional estimated cost of £16 million as a result of work required on the site to address the issues raised, as well as continued operation and improvements.

The Scottish Government has said the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN) will move to the new hospital site in spring 2020, with the rest of the children's hospital migrating to the new site in the autumn.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said an independent report into the hospital by KPMG identified the main issue with ventilation in critical care stemmed from an error in a document produced by NHS Lothian at the tender stage in 2012.

The error arose despite a requirement to adhere to relevant technical guidance.

In its report, KPMG attributes the problem to "human error" and "confusion" over interpretation of standards and guidance, whilst also concluding that opportunities to spot and rectify the error were missed.

The findings of an assessment by NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) into the compliance of all building systems that could impact on patients and staff at the site were also outlined by the Health Secretary.

A range of issues, including with ventilation and water systems, were flagged within the NSS report, with NHS Lothian accepting the recommendations to address them.

Ms Freeman said she was "bitterly disappointed" by the mistake made in 2012.

"I would like to acknowledge the contribution of staff who have continued to provide high quality clinical services," she said.

"We are all very grateful for their dedication and professionalism in what have been very difficult and disappointing circumstances.

"I also want to thank the patients and families affected for their patience.

"The safest possible care of their children is my overriding priority and I am sorry for any impact the current situation has had on them.

"I am of course bitterly disappointed that a mistake made in 2012 was not picked up earlier."

She added: "This is a publicly funded project of strategic importance, which has not been delivered by NHS Lothian in compliance with the standards and guidance.

"The delay we now face will be borne by NHS Lothian staff, by patients and their families and the additional cost will be to the public purse.

"My overriding priority is that the children and families who depend on these hospital services can receive them in the safest way possible.

"The current situation is not one anyone would chose - but it is one I am determined to resolve."

Ms Freeman continued to state that due to the scale of the challenge relating to the delivery of the new hospital, NHS Lothian has been escalated to level four in the NHS Board Performance Framework for the specific issue.

The Scottish Government confirmed it will put in place a senior programme director who will take responsibility for day-to-day delivery of the RHCYP until the site is fully occupied.

A new national body will also be created, which will have oversight for the design, planning, construction and maintenance of major NHS Scotland infrastructure developments.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "The Cabinet Secretary today expects us to believe than human error and confusion, and a failure of an environmental matrix, means that no SNP ministers are responsible for seven years of this delayed project.

"Reading between the lines of the statement today, it looks like the Cabinet Secretary now intends to hang NHS management out for this problem."

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon described the situation as a disaster and highlighted "missed opportunities to rectify mistakes".

Questioning where the blame lies, Ms Lennon said: "The role of NHS Lothian has been referenced many times in the statement but ultimately the buck stops with the Health Secretary and with this Government.

"So on a principle of accountability, we need a full-blown public inquiry."

Scottish Green parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said: "The cost of the new hospital is eye-watering but that doesn't mean financial support isn't needed to make sure those who remain at the old site aren't comfortable and safe, too.

"That means investment in good staffing levels, equipment and the kind of support children and their families need to put the patient at the centre of care.

"Someone signed off this new hospital when it was clearly not safe or in a fit state for use by our children.

"That raises the question for who is responsible and liable for this mess."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "The Cabinet Secretary has rejected my call for a public inquiry.

"The Government claim it is not their fault. If that is the case they have nothing to fear from such an inquiry.

"The public deserve better given this huge waste of money and time.

"For years the SNP Government has taken the credit for this build but now it has gone horribly wrong it is outsourcing the blame."