An inquiry into issues surrounding two major hospital campuses in Scotland will focus on the “witness’ perceptions” of how they were affected.
The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is due to begin on September 20, looking into the recent construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) in Glasgow, and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences (RHCYP/DCN) in Edinburgh.
At a procedural hearing on Tuesday, inquiry chairman Lord Brodie said the inquiry will be held over five weeks with evidence running into November after a two-week break in October.
Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, told the hearing: “I cannot emphasise enough that the focus of the hearings in September is the witness’ perceptions of what happened to them.
“In a very real sense, I intend to do no more than gather their evidence that we can then use in our further investigations and so, consistent with that, I do not see challenging the evidence in September, in any way, as being part of my remit at this point.”
Lord Brodie also announced the inquiry will be held at offices near Edinburgh’s St Andrew’s Square with scope for a facility in Glasgow to watch proceedings for those who may not have access to watch online.
However, he ended the hearing by admitting the inquiry is still “dependent on the course of the pandemic and the government’s response to that”.
The 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 (NHSGGC) as she blames contaminated water in the £842m hospital for her daughter’s death.
The new Edinburgh Sick Kids facility had been due to open in July 2019, but the then health secretary, Jeane Freeman, halted the move from the existing site until March this year as final compliance checks revealed the ventilation system in the critical care department did not meet the necessary standards.
Mr Duncan also said it “seems likely that there will be a smaller group of witnesses in relation to Edinburgh”.
He added: “It seems likely that most of those who give evidence will be people who have experience of the Glasgow hospitals – the QUEH and the RHC.
“Witnesses will be asked to identify and to describe any particular problems that they encountered during treatment or involvement with the hospitals, those problems may include health issues experienced by patients – most still obviously infections that impacted upon care, and upon health.
“Another example is the use of prophylactic antibiotics and the impact that that may have had upon treatment, and indeed upon health, but we’ll also look at other sorts of problems, one obvious example is emotional impact upon families – particularly the parents of affected children.
“We may also look at the perception that they have on amenities within the hospital, particularly for those who were decanted to different parts of the hospitals.
“Finally, and as indicated, witnesses will be asked about their perception of communication and the effectiveness of that.
“The key element is the same in each case: the effect of the delayed move to the hospital had upon them, whether they are patients or whether they are a family member, and the perception of communication around that.”