Hospital safety probe continues

The latest phase of the ongoing Scottish Hospitals Inquiry into the errors and safety concerns that led to delays opening a flagship new £150m children’s hospital in Edinburgh has concluded.

The world-class Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People in little France on the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary campus should have opened in July 2019, but the project suffered months of delays after final inspections revealed safety concerns over the ventilation system.

Following the fiasco, which saw the Government postpone the hospital’s launch just a day before the planned opening, NHS Lothian commissioned a report from auditors, Grant Thornton, which discovered a ‘human error’ in a spreadsheet created in 2012 outlining the airflow specifications for critical care rooms at the development.

Instead of the mandated 10 air changes every hour to prevent the spread of infections, the spreadsheet error meant contractors were working to a plan demanding just four air changes an hour.

Subsequent repair work on the site cost in excess of £20m and the opening of the hospital was delayed for over a year.

Gathering the evidence

A formal inquiry was then launched, with the first programme of oral hearings concluding in November last year.

And the probe continued in early May with the aim of determining how issues relating to ventilation, water contamination, and other matters impacted on patient safety and care and whether these problems could have been avoided.

It is also exploring problems at the flagship £850m Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, which opened in 2015.

Since opening, the hospital has been hit by a series of scandals, including outbreaks of deadly infections linked to water quality and ventilation systems.

And, earlier this year, it was revealed that health chiefs are set to rip down walls at the hospital over fears a lack of fire-retardant sheeting on cavity insulation could pose a fire hazard.

Over the course of two weeks, the second phase of the inquiry heard from a number of engineering experts who explained the theory and practice of ventilation in a hospital setting, and the importance of good air circulation to prevent the spread of infection.

The importance of air quality

The inquiry has also heard from a number of current and former management staff within NHS Lothian involved in the early stages of the project development at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Department for adjacent Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

And the panel recorded comments from former and acting civil servants close to the Edinburgh project finance decision making in the Scottish Government and from Mott MacDonald about its involvement in the project.

The inquiry's evidence gathering will continue in the coming months with announcements on future hearings and topics to be made in due course.

Inquiry chairman, Lord Brodie, said: “It is important that the inquiry understands the technical requirements of ventilation in hospitals, so that we can better identify what went wrong with the ventilation systems installed at the hospitals we are investigating.”

For more on the inquiry visit

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