Ministers accused of ‘incompetence’ over delay to hospital buildings

Tory MSP Liam Kerr pressed the health secretary on delays to the Baird Family Hospital and Anchor Centre in Aberdeen.

Scottish ministers accused of ‘incompetence’ over delay to Aberdeen hospital buildings PA Media

Scottish ministers have been accused of “incompetence” after delays to two new hospital buildings.

Health secretary Michael Matheson stressed it was local health bosses at NHS Grampian who were responsible for completing the Baird Family Hospital and the cancer treating Anchor Centre, both in Aberdeen.

But Matheson failed to say when the Scottish Government first became aware of the issues there – although he was clear that ministers were “determined to ensure NHS Grampian learn the lessons from this”.

The health secretary was pressed on the issue in Holyrood after reports on Tuesday suggested health board was made aware of ventilation issues three years ago.

Both the Baird Family Hospital – which will provide maternity and neonatal care as well as breast and gynaecology services – and the Anchor Centre were due to be open in 2020, but have faced delays and budget overspends of almost £100m.

Health secretary Michael Matheson was questioned on delays to the construction of the Baird Family Hospital and the Anchor Centre in Aberdeen.PA Media

Last month, delays attributed in part to the ventilation system at the new buildings, which will be built on the grounds of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, were announced.

It comes as an inquiry is still being carried out into issues with the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

The public inquiry is examining issues with ventilation, water contamination and “other matters adversely impacting on patient safety and care” at those facilities

Conservative North East Scotland MSP Liam Kerr raised the issues with the Aberdeen project, questioning ministers on the reports that “NHS Grampian was warned and failed to address significant issues on the Baird and Anchor units almost three years before announcing delays”.

He added that this was “far from the first hospital project to be beset by infection control problems”, with the Tory adding: “One thinks immediately of the Queen Elizabeth in Glasgow and the Edinburgh Sick Kids.”

While he said Matheson was “new in post” as Health Secretary, Kerr said his two predecessors in the role, Humza Yousaf and Jeane Freeman, had “presided over now four projects which had patient safety problems, over-ran in time and bust their budgets”.

The Tory then asked: “What consequences will former ministers face for their incompetence?”

Labour’s Carol Mochan also spoke out on the delay, saying: “It is concerning that once again we have another hospital with serious health and safety concerns.”

She added: “Patients and staff will rightly be outraged by the latest development in NHS Grampian.”

Matheson stressed again that NHS capital projects, such as new hospital buildings, are “taken forward by local health boards”, not the Scottish Government.

But he said ministers had created NHS Scotland Assure in 2021 “because of the experience with some of the other capital projects” including the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the new Sick Kids hospital in Edinburgh to provide “that fine level of oversight” on projects.

He added that a review of the Aberdeen project had “identified a number of areas where actions now need to be taken in order”, including on infection control measures and ventilation.

“It is now for NHS Grampian to ensure those are implemented,” the Health Secretary said.

Matheson told MSPs: “We’re determined to ensure NHS Grampian learn the lessons from this and they implement the recommendations set out in the NHS Scotland Assure report.”

The issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament after a key stage assurance review (KSAR) by NHS officials, released to the BBC under freedom of information legislation, “identified multiple concerns in relation to the development of the ventilation strategy that, from the evidence presented, do not appear to have been addressed”.

A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: “We welcome the robust scrutiny that NHS Assure brings to major infrastructure projects like The Baird Family Hospital and Anchor Centre.

“We are actively working with them to improve the areas highlighted in the KSAR report, a high proportion of which relate to governance.

“Many of the points raised are due to changes in guidance and process, that came following issues with the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

“In the majority of cases, our teams were already aware of and actively working to address the issues and opportunities raised, prior to the publication of the KSAR.”

The Anchor Centre is reported to be due to open in October, with the Baird Family Hospital to open in September of next year.

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