Board to oversee infections at Glasgow hospital has not met for nine months

A group set up in the wake of infections at a flagship hospital has not met for nine months, Nicola Sturgeon has been told.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

The oversight board was set up in November 2019 to deal with what was described as being “critical issues” with infection prevention and control at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

But Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who has repeatedly challenged the First Minister on infection deaths at the hospital, said it had not met since March.

That is despite him raising cases such as the death of Andrew Slorance, a senior Scottish Government official who was being treated for cancer in the QEUH when he contracted both Covid-19 and aspergillus.

At Holyrood last week, Mr Sarwar highlighted the case of a six-month-old baby who died after contracting an infection called Serratia.

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At First Minister’s Questions, he raised the issue of the hospital again, saying: “Given all of the revelations of the past month, given everything that has happened over the past two years, given the demands of families and staff for openness and given the calls for the First Minister to get a grip of this crisis, the oversight board has not met for nine months.”

He went on to claim a review group linked to the hospital had not met for more than two months, and that bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde were “still not reporting deadly infections in the hospital” to ministers.

Mr Sarwar met the chairman, John Brown, and chief executive, Jane Grant, of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, on Wednesday and demanded to know: “First Minister, how can you still have confidence in them?

“Their complacent and belligerent attitude demonstrates everything that is wrong with the culture at the top of this health board.

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“Why after everything we have learned do you continue to take their word over the word of staff, families and patients who surely deserve better?”

Ms Sturgeon told him: “On the case of the oversight group it is not about meetings, it is about actions.

“And, to be precise, 88 per cent of the oversight board’s recommendations have already been completed. The remaining actions that are outstanding don’t relate directly to patient safety.”

She added that the advice assurance and review group will meet on Friday December 17 as she stressed: “It is about making sure recommendations that are made are implemented, and that is what has happened.”

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The First Minister insisted her government takes seriously “any and all concerns that are raised about the Queen Elizabeth”, as she accused Mr Sarwar of trying to undermine confidence in the hospital.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Anas Sarwar wants to suggest to people that, somehow, the Queen Elizabeth is a hospital that is less safe than other hospitals, the evidence does not bear that out.”

She continued: “I am unable to comment on individual cases because of patient confidentiality but all concerns that are raised are taken extremely seriously.

“And I have made very clear any member of staff who has concerns, and who feels those concerns are not being taken seriously, or that they are somehow not being allowed to speak out, should come to me, or to the health Secretary about that.

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“We will continue to make sure that all actions are taken to deliver high quality patient care in the Queen Elizabeth, which clinicians do already.

“But let us not undermine confidence in a hospital that is delivering high quality care for patients every single day.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said in a statement: “We remain very concerned about continued unfounded claims questioning the integrity of our staff.

“There is absolutely no complacency at any level within NHSGGC in relation to infection control and patient safety. On the contrary, it is afforded the highest priority across our services.”

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“The health board said all staff involved follow national guidance on infections assessments which are submitted to a national reporting body which then reviews them.”

The statement continued: “Following the meeting with Mr Sarwar yesterday at our request, we have invited him to meet with frontline staff at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children, so that he can see for himself the excellent work that is being done at our hospitals and hear first-hand about our collective commitment to high-quality, safe and patient-centred care.

“We would also be happy to remain in dialogue with Mr Sarwar to reassure him that our processes are robust.”