New children’s hospital delayed till autumn 2020

Scottish Parliament

Delay will cost taxpayer more than £20m

Wednesday 11th September 2019

Edinburgh’s delayed Royal Hospital for Sick Children & Young People will not be opening for at least another year, the health secretary announced today.

Jeane Freeman MSP said reviews had revealed “significant work” was needed to ensure the empty healthcare facility’s ventilation systems were up to standard.

The costs of the remedial works and of keeping the old site open are expected to run to £23m.  

Ms Freeman suggested NHS Lothian was responsible for the defects because an environmental specification it supplied to developers did not meet national standards.

In July, the long-planned and advertised move to the new site was called off days before services were due to be delivered from the new facility. Children’s services are still being hosted at the old hospital in Sciennes.

Ms Freeman then announced two parallel reviews by NHS procurement hub National Services Scotland and consultants KPMG would look at the design of the new hospital and the decision-making that led to the defects.

At the time chief executive Tim Davison said the ‘main time barrier’ would be sourcing a new air handling unit for the critical care ward, which could take at least two months.

But today Ms Freeman said the review had picked up additional problems in other areas, including ventilation for the oncology and haematology departments, and there was still “significant work” to do.

And although testing had revealed no widespread contamination, water systems still need “remedial and precautionary action as well as systemwide disinfection prior to occupation”.

Ms Freeman laid blame for the delay, which has seen the health service paying contractors millions for an empty hospital, at NHS Lothian’s door.

She said KPMG had found a “clear picture of human error and confusion over interpretation of standards and guidance” and had “missed opportunities to spot and rectify that error.”

A key document produced by NHS Lothian, she said, was the main problem because it was “inconsistent with the [building] guidance but was referred to throughout the project.”

Ministers have placed the health board in special measures in relation to this project, warning there are “significant risks” and moving NHS Lothian from stage three to stage four of a government escalation framework.

The cost of the extra work is expected to be around £16m and will be met by central government. Keeping the old site open will cost between £6m and £7m, Ms Freeman said.

In a statement, the Scottish Government said a promised new national body to oversee hospital building would help stop similar episodes happening again.

Ms Freeman added: “The safest possible care of 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. 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 choose – but it is one I am determined to resolve.”

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs accused the government of “sneaking out” the announcement and the reports. He added staff and families would be “sceptical” about the new timescale, which comes after repeated delays.

Meanwhile, other parties are calling for a more thorough investigation of the delay, with Labour’s Monica Lennon saying a “full-blown public inquiry” was needed.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton claimed ministers were “outsourcing the blame” for a “huge waste of money”.

NHS Lothian is reported to be paying more than £1m a month to the contractors that built the hospital.

Analysis by healthandcare.scot revealed taxpayers in Scotland will pay private consortiums more than £2.6bn over the next 25 years for health service construction projects that cost less than £1bn to build.