Leader comment: The very least hospital scandal families deserve are answers

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The scandal surrounding the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital appears to be deepening by the day.

Over the weekend we learned that a further 10 cases of infections linked to water contamination were identified as far back as 2016.

That is on top of the 26 incidents revealed in 2017, including the death of 10-year-old Milly Main, and in addition to 23 cases in 2018 reported by Health Protection Scotland - all in paediatric cancer.

Yesterday, the Sunday Post also revealed that the Health and Safety Executive listed problems with the way staff were trained and equipped to deal with highly contagious diseases, in November 2018.

In response, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said yesterday she “wouldn’t normally see” HSE reports, although she went on to say senior Scottish Government officials were now looking “very carefully” at what information comes to ministers.

“I want to change what is normal procedure so I do know about some of these matters,” she said. “I think I should be informed when the Health and Safety Executive issues serious compliance notices on any board.”

Indeed.

On Friday, the Scottish Government acted and escalated NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) to stage four of the NHS Board Performance Framework. In Scotland, a five-stage scale is used to show the level of oversight for stricken health boards.

Effectively this means the Government is assuming control of a health board in crisis, and can begin to work to restore trust for patients, families, and staff. While welcoming the move, opposition politicians point out that action by the board should have been taken much sooner. That is undoubtedly true.

The Tories point out that we now have the “incredible situation” in Scotland where more than a third of mainland health boards are at the second highest stage of escalation which has to suggest a wider review of the health board structure is needed.

The very least the families of Milly Main and Mason Djemat deserve are answers, but the who, what, and why is for the subsequent inquiry to discover.

The latest action by Ms Freeman seems encouraging, and an important step in the recovering the situation. Whether it will be enough to relieve the mounting pressure on her position remains to be seen.