Take hospital control away from health boards, says Tory MSP

Health boards should not be in charge of building projects like the delayed replacement for Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital because they don’t have the expertise, Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs has claimed today.

Media preview of the new Royal Hospital for Children & Young People at Little France

As NHS Lothian appealed for people to spread the message the Sick Kids’ emergency department was not moving today as originally advertised, Mr Briggs said a central procurement unit at national level would ensure proper controls on standards and costs.

The health board announced late on Thursday, just hours before the transfer of services was due to begin, that the move from the hospital’s existing home on the city’s Sciennes Road to the new site at Little France had been delayed indefinitely because the ventilation system in the critical care unit did not meet national standards.

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Mr Briggs said he received a briefing recently from NHS Lothian in which they said they had gone back to the developer on 53 different issues to have them rectified.

He said: “I think Lothian had done their best to take forward the project, but this is where I think it’s sometimes difficult when you have a health board which is there to commission health services taking the lead on £100 million developments now and again. It’s not ideal.

“You could have a central commissioning group – and I think that’s what the government will put in place in the future.

“I know that’s centralisation, but with these kind of projects you would then have proper management of everything from costs to standards.”

The contractors for the new hospital are the same as those responsible for Glasgow’s troubled Queen Elizabeth “super-hospital” where the ventilation system has been among several areas which have raised concerns.

Mr Briggs wrote to health secretary Jeane Freeman in January seeking assurances about infection control at the new Sick Kids after two patients died at the Glasgow hospital after contracting an airborne infection linked to pigeon droppings.

And the Scottish Parliament’s health committee agreed in January to inquire into “the scale of any health problems acquired from the healthcare environment in Scotland”.

Parents are being advised to continue using the existing accident and emergency department at Sciennes.

Thomas Waterson, chair of Unison Scotland’s health committee, has said the latest arrangements were issued at a time when the hospital was “in chaos”. “We’ve got people phoning parents whose children have appointments at the new hospital telling them not to turn up at Little France, but to go to Sciennes,” he said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Hospital projects are highly complex and require specialist skills and expertise.

“NHS boards are supported in this work through Health Facilities Scotland, a division of NHS National Services Scotland, which provides guidance on professional and good practice standards for facilities and on value for money. Work is under way to expand the services of Health Facilities Scotland into a broader role that includes further assurance that buildings are delivered to the latest standards and are cost effective.”