Children’s farewell messages at old Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital painted over

It was just two months ago that patients were encouraged to graffiti farewell messages on the walls of the building that has treated thousands of children for more than 150 years before a planned move to a brand new hospital.

Mairi Stark, a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the lead for general paediatrics at the new Sick Kids Hospital, is pictured signing the wall in the old hospital ahead of the move. Picture: Greg Macvean

But now the interior walls of the old Sick Kids in Edinburgh have been repainted due to the indefinite postponement of the transfer to the £150 million hospital at Little France.

The move was postponed in July, just days before it was due to take place, because of safety problems with drainage and ventilation. It is not known when the switch will go ahead, with fears that it could be postponed by up to a year.

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The repainting, which NHS Lothian said was to create a “bright and presentable environment” for patients, has so far cost £4,311.13.

Notices put up on the freshly painted walls in the Sick Kids outpatients’ department state: “Thanks to everyone who wrote their farewell messages, but now the move to the new Children’s and Young People’s Hospital is postponed, we have repainted the department and cannot allow any more writing on the walls.”

Although an investigation into the problems at the empty new hospital is expected to be completed this year, no opening date has been given by the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, or NHS Lothian.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “It is a real shame that the farewell messages at the children’s hospital have had to be painted over.

“The longer the move to the new building is postponed, the greater the uncertainty for the children, their families and the hard-working staff.

“It’s worrying that Jeane Freeman has no idea if the new building will be declared safe to open next year in 2020 – in fact, it is astonishing and shows how badly this project has been managed.”

She added: “Every single day that the new hospital lies empty is wasting money that could be benefiting patients.

“It’s a disgrace and that’s why Scottish Labour is demanding an independent public inquiry.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said:“While this might not be one of the major clinical or financial blows from the failure to get the new hospital open, it’s still significant.

“By covering up their drawings and messages, it simply reminds children of the abject failure from both the health board and the SNP Government to get this move sorted.”

He added: “For NHS Lothian staff, the SNP mismanagement of the new Sick Kids hospital has demoralised the workforce and created a vacuum where staff are having to explain to families why what should have been a state-of- the-art facility is not open.”

George Curley, director of operations and facilities at NHS Lothian, said: “There is a regular painting programme in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children which we have continued. We recently painted a few small areas including the outpatients area so that we have a bright and presentable environment for patients and their families. We have left some touching messages from patients and staff.”

Roslyn Neely, CEO of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, said the Leave Your Mark wall at the hospital entrance was still intact and that only some of the other walls in the building had been painted over.

She added that the graffiti walls have been photographed, with the plan to exhibit them at some point in the future.

She said: “We would like to reassure everyone that all of the heartfelt farewell messages left on the Leave Your Mark wall at the entrance to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children remain there and have not been painted over. The wall has also been photographed by our Arts Programme staff so we have a permanent record of these touching memories.

“Though some small areas, including the outpatients area, have been painted, these were photographed prior to painting, again with a view to them being displayed in an exhibition space at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People when we move.”