New Sick Kids hospital contractors accused of ‘underbidding’ by £11.6m

The contractors who built Edinburgh’s new Sick Kids hospital have been accused of underbidding by £11.6 million when they won the contract.
The new Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France. Credit; Scott LoudenThe new Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France. Credit; Scott Louden
The new Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France. Credit; Scott Louden

An architect involved in the project has written to health secretary Jeane Freeman voicing his concerns and urging an investigation into the bidding process.

Robert Menzies has also provided Ms Freeman with a list of areas throughout the hospital which he believes do not comply with national regulations or guidelines.

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Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) – a consortium led by Brookfield Multiplex – won the contract to build the hospital six years ago, beating rival bids from Laing O’Rourke and a Balfour Beatty/Bam joint venture.

The hospital was repeatedly delayed but was due to open in July until it was discovered at the last minute that the ventilation in critical care did not meet national standards.

The building is scheduled to open next autumn.

A report by Audit Scotland published last month revealed that towards the end of the build stage, NHS Lothian had paid IHSL an extra £11.6m to resolve various problems, including issues with drainage, heater batteries and void fire detectors.

In his letter to Ms Freeman, Mr Menzies said: “From my professional perspective, it is a matter of concern that the Auditor General has indicated that an extra £11.6m of work is required to make Brookfield’s bid compliant.

“That essentially means that they had underbid their offer by that amount.

“I worked on a rival bid that was actually CHEAPER as well as being more compliant, yet I was told we were placed last of the three bidders.

“At the time I had major questions about the scoring given the information we received at the debriefing.

“This should be investigated separately.”

The report Ms Freeman commissioned from NHS National Services Scotland into problems at the new hospital focused on issues with the water, ventilation and drainage systems.

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But Mr Menzies sent Ms Freeman a six-page document listing areas across the whole building where he said the plans submitted for planning permission did not meet national agreed standards, along with other areas where he had concerns.

They ranged from the need for fire safety checks on the atrium to a the lack of second escape route from the restaurant and four-bed wards failing to meet daylight requirements.

He said: “Some of the issues may have been addressed during the build but experience says otherwise.”

A spokesman for IHSL said: “The works on the hospital were signed off as complete by the independent tester on February 22, 2019, when the building was handed into the possession and operation of NHS Lothian.

“We will continue to work with NHS Lothian to facilitate migration to the new hospital on the timetable set out by the cabinet secretary.”

Professor Alex McMahon, director of nursing at NHS Lothian, said the delay to the hospital had been caused by “clearly identified issues”.

He added: “The report by NHS Services Scotland has pinpointed the work required to make the building safe to open to patients and NHS Lothian has provided a detailed response to the action plan and work is already well underway to implement it.”

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