NHS paying out £1.4m every month for empty new Sick Kids hospital

A health board is paying out millions of pounds to a private consortium after the opening of its £150 million world-class children’s hospital was cancelled at the 11th-hour last month due to safety fears over its ventilation system.

NHS Lothian has confirmed repayments - equivalent of approximately £1.4m a month - for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and Young People at Little France in Edinburgh started when it took over the facility in February.

Last night Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said this was “yet another kick in the teeth.”

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Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France. Picture: Scott Louden

While the hospital cost around £150m to build, the cost over the next 25 years, including maintenance and facilities management fees, will be £432m.

Under contract terms, repayments began when NHS Lothian took possession of the site from private consortium IHSL.

The deal with IHSL to design, build, finance and maintain the hospital was under the Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) system, the Scottish Government’s version of controversial private financing models such as PFI.

The old Sick Kids hospital, in Sciennes, remains open but has been sold to student housing firm Downing.

The new Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France. Picture: Scott Louden

Mr Hamilton said: “Patients, parents and staff are exasperated that the Sick Kids’ opening has been subject to delay after delay.

“It is yet another kick in the teeth to learn NHS Lothian has been making repayments of around £1.4 million a month given the hospital has been shown to be unsafe to open. Hundreds of hospital beds are gathering dust.

“An independent inquiry into how this entire build has been managed, including how it has been overseen by SNP ministers, is now necessary.”

Tom Waterson, chairman of Unison Scotland’s health committee, said: “Every penny is a prisoner in that health board just now and to find out we are paying millions of pounds for a hospital we can’t use is nothing short of scandalous.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “The Health Secretary has been clear her first priority is patient safety, and all necessary actions are taken to allow the move to go ahead as quickly and safely as possible.

“In addition, the Health Secretary has confirmed KPMG have been engaged to conduct an independent audit of the governance arrangements for the hospital, and to provide an external and impartial assessment of the factors leading to the delay.”