Edinburgh hospital delay inquiry must examine ‘culture of silence’ concerns

The investigation into the last-minute halt on the opening of Edinburgh’s new children’s hospital must consider whether there was a culture which stopped people working on the project voicing concerns as the building progressed, an MSP has said.

Michelle Ballantyne does not believe the problem with the ventilation system arose 'out of the blue'

Tory frontbencher Michelle Ballantyne, who raised concerns about the new hospital the week before the latest delay was announced, said she did not believe the problem with the ventilation system which prompted the decision had arisen “out of the blue”.

And she warned that the issue may had gone unreported until the 11th hour due to an atmosphere which prevented people speaking out.

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She asked: “Who knew there were problems arising? Why weren’t people being told? What was preventing people form people saying ‘I think we’ve got issues here’?”

The replacement for the Sick Kids Hospital was due to open this week, but last Thursday the long-awaited move was called off because the ventilation in the critical care unit was not up to national standards.

Ms Ballantyne said: “I’m very concerned that the government are not on top of this build. Without doubt there are issues, but they have been denying it, saying everything is fine.”

She said when she asked Health Secretary Jeane Freeman for assurances about the new hospital on the last day of parliament before the recess, Ms Freeman had been “a little bit hesitant”.

“But she still went on to say yes they’d had assurances. The bottom line is either she had the assurances and they weren’t telling her the truth or she hadn’t really had the assurances she needed.

“I am delighted she has made the right decision about not opening because this is about people’s lives and you cannot play Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“But what really does concern me is there seems to be an inability for people to be honest about what’s going on and what the issues are and I think we need to be looking very hard at whether or not, when people are asked if things are all right, the culture is such that it prevents people from saying ‘Look, we’re really worried about this’, ‘We don’t think that’s right’.

“I don’t accept they did a last minute check and found there was an issue. I don’t think it arose out of the blue at the last minute.”

Ms Ballantyne said she feared people in the project team had not felt able to be “straight up” about their concerns.

“My view is it’s really important to run a no-blame culture during the process so people are able to say ‘I think there’s a problem here’. It’s that communication that allows you to solve problems, not have them develop so you end up with a multi-million pound investment not delivered.”