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SNP under pressure to publish Sick Kids hospital business case

The original Sick Kids hospital in Sciennes, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

The original Sick Kids hospital in Sciennes, Edinburgh. Picture: TSPL

  • by ANDREW WHITAKER
 

THE SNP government is facing calls to publish the business case for major building projects such as the delayed replacement of the Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital.

Mark Hellowell, a lecturer in health systems at the University of Edinburgh, said that ministers were refusing to release the business case for the hospital to try to hide what he claimed was the failure of the SNP’s flagship Scottish Futures Trust to deliver cheaper schemes.

Mr Hellowell attacked the SNP government’s stance on the issue as “an appalling state of affairs” as he claimed ministers would only release a heavily redacted copy of the business case with details about the costs of the hospital that is costing £150m to replace.

The hospital will be moving from Sciennes to Little France next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The new hospital is due to open in 2017 - a delay on the proposed opening date of autumn 2016.

Mr Hellowell also attacked SNP ministers for what he said was a lack of transparency as he said business cases are routinely released by the UK government for major building projects.

He highlighted the example of the business case of the Royal Liverpool Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme, which was published in full without the financial details being redacted.

Mr Hellowell said: “The public ought to be informed about whether it’s sensible to pursue a project in a particular way, but the government is going out of its was to deny the public information about the affordability of this project.

“It’s an appalling state of affairs. It was long accepted by the SNP in opposition that the public needs to be given better information, but when they are in charge of projects they have a very poor record of releasing this.

“The Scottish government doesn’t want information about this way of financing building projects to be released to the public.”

Meanwhile, Labour MSP Iain Gray talked about what he said was a “veil of secrecy” over major building projects such as the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital.

He said: “Now they are refusing to release the business case until the contracts are completed and it will be too late to scrutinise it. We cannot see the affordability case, or know what the impact on NHS Lothian budgets will be.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Any knowledge of the contract awarding process indicates it would be completely foolish to reveal the full costings of a project when it is going out to tender. On top of that, it would prevent us delivering maximum value for money.

“We are totally committed to delivering a new Sick Kids and will do so through the Non Profit Distributing model. This is a much more effective than the now outdated and discredited PFI model, which has left Scottish taxpayers footing a massive bill for years to come.”

 

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