Auditor General says key questions still unanswered over Edinburgh's Sick Kids Hospital

Checks and balances around the construction of the new hospital did not work, says the Auditor General
Checks and balances around the construction of the new hospital did not work, says the Auditor General
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Report points to issues for public inquiry to consider

KEY questions on what went wrong with Edinburgh's troubled new Sick Kids Hospital remain unanswered by the reviews of the project carried out so far, Scotland's Auditor General said today.

The hospital was all set to open in July until problems were discovered at the last minute.

The hospital was all set to open in July until problems were discovered at the last minute.

In a new report on the £150 million building whose opening was called off at the last minute in July, Caroline Gardner says outstanding issues which need to be answered include why specifications in the hospital's 2012 tender papers were inconsistent with national guidelines on ventilation requirements in critical care areas and why a series of opportunities to spot the error - which caused the delay to the opening - were missed.

Ms Gardner's report sets out the facts as they are known and draws on the reviews already carried out by KPMG and NHS National Services Scotland, as well as NHS Lothian's annual audit report.

And it points to aspects of project which the public inquiry into the project might want to address, including the clarity and application of the national ventilation guidelines, and how they were managed; the effectiveness of the oversight and scrutiny of the project; and the role of all the parties involved, including project company IHSL's construction arm, Brookfield Multiplex, who also built the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow, where there have also been problems .

Ms Gardner said: "It's clear that the checks and balances around the construction of the new children's hospital didn't work, and the public inquiry may want to consider why that happened after similar issues had emerged around the building of schools in Edinburgh.

"It would also be beneficial to understand the role played by all the parties involved, and to explore why the issues that emerged at Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth hospital didn’t prompt greater scrutiny in Edinburgh."

The report also says some of the issues raised by the Sick Kids project resonate with the findings of the independent Cole report on the construction of Edinburgh schools after the temporary closure of 17 schools across the Capital on safety grounds in 2016 following a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School.

"The report recommended the need for a clear understanding among all parties of their roles and responsibilities; clear protocols regarding the escalation of significant issues; effective and independent scrutiny and inspection; sufficient oversight and quality assurance of construction works and the need for truly independent certification."

Health Secetary Jeane Freeman ordered the halt to the opening after the ventilation in critical care areas was found not to meet national standards on the number of air changes per hour. She ordered further checks which uncovered other problems with the ventilation, water, drainage, electrical and fire safety systems. High Court judge Lord Brodie has been appointed to head a public inquiry into both the Edinburgh hospital and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The new Sick Kids Hospital, next to Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary at Little France, is now due to open in autumn next year.

READ MORE: NHS Lothian urged not to rule out legal action over Sick Kids as contractors taken to court over Glasgow hospital