The stories of families affected by issues with two major hospital complexes in Scotland will be “the starting point” for the upcoming public inquiry, an initial hearing has heard.
Lord Brodie held a virtual meeting with legal representatives of core participants on Thursday to set out the immediate priorities for the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry which is due to begin on September 20.
The independent investigation is looking into the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences (RHCYP/DCN) in Edinburgh.
During the virtual hearing, senior counsel to the inquiry, Alastair Duncan QC, said: “The inquiry requires to investigate issues to do with the construction of the hospitals in Glasgow and in Edinburgh, in so far as those issues had the potential to impact adversely upon patient safety.
“As part of this, the inquiry request to investigate the effect that these issues had upon the patients, be that physical, emotional, or other effects. The inquiry also requires to investigate the adequacy and the effectiveness of communication with patients.
“In the hearing in September we will hear from patients and from families on these matters. The hearing will be their opportunity to tell the inquiry how, in their view, the issues just mentioned impacted upon them, and their loved ones.
“It will be their opportunity to provide their perception of the way that the hospitals communicated with them.
“The sole purpose of the hearing in September is to hear and to record the evidence of the patients and families on these matters.
“Their stories will be our starting point for the rest of our work in the inquiry and it will be in future hearings that we hear from other core participants on the areas covered in the September hearings.”
The three-week inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow site died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to ventilation concerns.
Kimberly Darroch, the mother of ten-year-old Milly Main who died in the QEUH in 2017 after contracting an infection, launched legal action against NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde as she blames contaminated water in the £842m hospital for her daughter’s death.
The new Edinburgh facility had been due to open in July 2019, but health secretary Jeane Freeman halted the move from the existing site.
Final compliance checks revealed the ventilation system in the new building’s critical care department did not meet the necessary standards.
All children’s services will eventually move to the new RHCYP next week.
After the meeting, Lord Brodie said: “Our first priority is to understand the experiences of affected patients and their families.
“The majority of core participants are associated with these individuals and their families so this meeting was an important milestone to establish a productive and collaborative dialogue.
“Core participants’ views are vital and will help inform the ways we work. Where possible, I want to share with them the latest developments from our investigations.
“We have already begun to speak with families in relation to both hospitals, however, we ask anyone who has not been in touch with us yet with relevant experience or information to contact us.
“We want to understand people’s experiences, where things went wrong that could have been prevented and what impact that has had on patient care.
“Our witness support team is available to guide individuals through the process and answer any questions they may have.”