Patients, families and NHS staff need to have the confidence that the hospital environment in which they are being cared for, and working in, is safe. The ongoing issues at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow have undermined public confidence, and that should concern us all.
Hardworking NHS staff, as well as parents, have continued to speak out and seek answers from NHS management and SNP ministers over hospital safety concerns. In many cases, their concerns and questions have been dismissed – that is unacceptable. Ensuring we build a transparent and open NHS Scotland, where these real concerns are listened to and acted upon, is vital and I’m sorry to say that has not been the case.
As a local MSP, I know how desperately people in Edinburgh and across the East of Scotland need the new Sick Kids Hospital.
That is why we have seen such anger from families and NHS staff about what should have been a much-celebrated state-of-the-art new hospital repeatedly delayed and not built to standard, a hospital now not due to open until – we hope –next autumn, almost a decade since it was first promised.
Patient safety must always come first. That is why I challenged the Cabinet Secretary, Jeane Freeman, in the Scottish Parliament about a number of concerns raised with me by constituents and staff regarding the standards of the buildings and medical equipment at the Department for Clinical Neuroscience (DCN) at the Western and old Sick Kids hospital in Sciennes.
None of these concerns have questioned the care and support being provided by staff who continue to go above and beyond to support patients and families. The Cabinet Secretary agreed to my call for Health Improvement Scotland to urgently undertake inspections at both sites.
The last HIS inspection at the old Sick Kids hospital was in September 2018 and at the Western was April 2018. An urgent inspection at both is crucial to investigate these concerns, given that the new site has been delayed till next year and potentially beyond.
I welcome the establishment of a new national body, which will have oversight of major infrastructure developments within the NHS announced in the Programme for Government. I personally called for this over a year ago. What we need to see now is real progress to get this organisation established and working and for its powers to be outlined and concrete. That is why this week I have called for the remit of this body to be published by December.
It is worth reflecting that just last week the Cabinet Secretary told MSPs that she did do not see what difference a public inquiry would make. For the public to have confidence in the inquiry, it must look at all aspects of what has gone wrong over the last 12 years, and the inquiry needs to consider the role the Scottish Government has had in this sorry period and what early warnings may have been missed by ministers.
Jeane Freeman should be in no doubt that this is her last chance to show she has the leadership needed to turn this unacceptable situation around. Scottish Conservatives will never stop holding this Government to account for the mismanagement of our Scottish NHS. The SNP has been in sole charge of our health services for 12 years and it is SNP ministers who are ultimately responsible.
Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian