Scottish Hospitals Inquiry: What the inquiry is due to investigate, and why

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is due to resume next week – but why has an inquiry been convened and what will be examined?

On September 17, 2019, the-then health secretary Jeane Freeman announced that a public inquiry would be held to examine issues at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus (QEUH) and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) and Department of Clinical Neurosciences sites, following concerns about patient safety and wellbeing.

In April 2015, the QEUH campus in Glasgow opened, but has been blighted by a number of contamination incidents, linked to issues with water quality and ventilation systems at the £840 million campus.

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An independent review into the hospital's design published its findings in June 2020, concluding some patients had been "exposed to risk that could have been lower". However, it found no "sound" evidence there had been "avoidable" deaths.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in GlasgowQueen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow

The review team said the hospital campus now "has in place the modern safety features and systems that we would expect".

Meanwhile, the RHCYP in Edinburgh was due to open in July 2019, but was delayed after last-minute inspections found safety concerns over its ventilation systems.

The Scottish Government then stepped in to prevent the hospital from opening just one day before it was due to accept patients.

When the inquiry was first announced in September 2019, Ms Freeman said the hospital would not be fully operational for at least another year.

The hospital was officially opened on March 23, 2021. To get to that point, however, £80m extra was spent on "enabling and equipment works" at the site outwith the main contract, an estimated £28m fixing the ventilation and the delays in opening the hospital, and a further £11.6m given to contractor IHSL to end a 2017 dispute over construction standards.

The next stage of the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry will focus on the aforementioned ventilation issues at the RHCYP.

The inquiry will be examining a number of topics at the latest hearing, including how the specification of the ventilation system was developed, the level of detail contained in that specification and how NHS Lothian communicated technical requirements for the ventilation system to prospective tenderers.

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The inquiry will also be looking at how this specification was further developed and what the understanding of it was at different stages of the procurement exercise leading to the appointment of the preferred bidder. Witnesses will be questioned on various aspects of the period up to financial close, and key terms of the contract and the specification for the ventilation system will be examined.

Governance throughout the period of the procurement exercise to financial close will also be looked at, among other matters.

The latest hearing will run from April 25 to May 9. The inquiry is to determine how vital issues relating to ventilation and other key building systems gave rise to concerns, how they occurred, and what steps can be taken to prevent this being repeated in future projects.

Lord Brodie was appointed as chair of the inquiry with effect from November 28 2019.



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