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Tearing down parts of new children’s hospital not ruled out

The health secretary said she would wait for checks to be carried out at the Edinburgh site.

Children's hospital: NHS Lothian paying £1.4m a month for empty building. STV News

The health secretary has said she does not know if parts of Edinburgh’s new children’s hospital will have to be ripped down due to problems with its drainage.

Jeane Freeman said she will wait for reports on additional checks she ordered at the site last month before deciding what to do.

She cancelled the long-awaited opening of the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) after a last-minute ventilation problem was found in its critical care unit.

Freeman also insisted demands for a public inquiry are “premature” after it emerged NHS Lothian has been paying around £1.4m a month for the empty hospital to developers since February.

The health secretary has come under mounting pressure over the troubled hospital, with Scottish Labour questioning her position at the weekend.

Speaking to STV News, Freeman responded: “This is not about me or my position and that’s not my concern.”

She continued: “My concern is making sure we have a hospital that is safe for patients and staff to be in, that it will continue to deliver the high-quality service that our staff in NHS Lothian do.

“That’s where my focus is – other people can choose to be focused on whatever suits them.”

It comes after a leading trade unionist described drainage at the new hospital as “not fit for purpose” and said the health secretary should be held accountable.

Unison official Tam Waterson, who represents NHS staff in Edinburgh, has also suggested the health board should be compensated by the government.

The monthly £1.4m sum NHS Lothian is paying developers Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) for the currently vacant building is part of a 25-year private finance deal worth £432m agreed for the hospital.

Freeman has said she expects the results of the water, ventilation and drainage checks she ordered at the site by late August or early September.

“What I can say is we don’t know what needs to be done to the hospital,” the health secretary said.

“My understanding is that the drainage problems were fixed. That was part of the settlement agreement earlier this year, it was the reason why the board took ownership of the hospital in February.

“But what I have asked for is additional checks to make sure that every part of the hospital is compliant with the standards that we need.

“I know that critical care isn’t and that does need to be fixed, but for the rest of the hospital I’m making sure all of those other areas, including drainage and other matters, are compliant with the standards that are needed.

“Once I have that information then I’ll know if anything more needs to be done than the changes that we need in critical care.”

She also suggested that should the results of those checks be positive, she could order patients and staff to begin moving into the new site “in a phased manner”.

On the potential for a public inquiry or compensation payments, Freeman said: “Until we are clear why this problem arose and whose responsibility it is, it is far too premature to start saying who might or not be accountable for this and who may or may not be eligible for compensation.

“We need to wait until we have all the information in front of us before we can make statements or decisions about anything along those lines.”

She added: “People need to have a bit of patience. It’s just about a month ago that I halted the move to the new site.

“The people who are entitled to be impatient and frustrated are the staff, and I completely understand why they are.

“That’s why I went to see them and talk to them about why I’d taken the decision I had taken.

“And of course, patients and their families, who were looking forward to moving into this new build with so much more available to them than in the current, much older site.”

Freeman also vowed to ensure all the information gleaned from upcoming reports on the hospital is made public.

The Scottish Greens have said the model of private finance arrangements needs to be ditched, calling the deal at the hospital a “rebranded” version of the private finance initiative (PFI) contracts which proliferated under Tony Blair’s Labour governments.

The party’s co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “We don’t yet know when this new hospital will open, but meanwhile the financial institutions who built it are making £1.4m a month at the expense of our NHS.

“When Labour introduced PFI we warned them this kind of thing was likely. The SNP said they’d scrap it, but this shows they just rebranded it.

“We warned that these contracts would mean the private consortia wouldn’t take responsibility for faults and delays, and that the taxpayer would pay through the nose.”

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