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Mums ‘fighting to save children’s lives at crisis-hit hospital’

Parents Charmaine Lacock and Karen Stirrat believe more should be done at the QEUH in Glasgow.

Two mums whose children are undergoing treatment at a crisis-hit ‘super hospital’ said they are ‘fighting to save their kids’ lives’.

On Friday, the Scottish Government announced it would provide additional support to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) following the deaths of two children on a ward affected by water contamination.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed that the health board had been escalated to stage four of the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework in response to ongoing issues relating to infection prevention, management and control at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC).

A Scottish Government-led oversight board will now be introduced to “strengthen current measures already in place to mitigate avoidable harms”.

‘Additional support is not good enough’

Fight: Charmaine Lacock with daughter Paige. STV

Parents Charmaine Lacock and Karen Stirrat hit out at the move, telling STV News it isn’t good enough and the board should have been completely taken over.

Ms Lacock, whose daughter Paige is undergoing treatment at the QEUH for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, said: “It’s not at all reassuring.

“We want the right thing to be done and the board to be removed because we have no more trust left in them.

“We never set out to have this fight, and this is what it’s become now – it’s become a fight to save our kids and to save those to come.

“It’s hard enough for families to sit and watch your child going through brutal treatment where you think that you can lose your child. To have this added stress – nobody takes that into consideration.”

Concerned: Parents Charmaine Lacock and Karen Stirrat.

Ms Stirrat, whose son Caleb has undergone chemotherapy for a rare, aggressive brain tumour, added: “This needs to be escalated further. The board need removed.

“It’s taken our lives – this has to stop.

“It’s upsetting for us, it’s upsetting for every family on that ward, and it is very unfair.

“It’s alright for them – they’re sitting behind a seat, they’re doing a job, they’re not doing their job properly.

“We need these answers and we need them now.”

The country’s largest health board joins NHS Tayside, NHS Highland and NHS Borders at stage four of the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework.

NHS Lothian and NHS Ayrshire & Arran are a level down at stage three.

‘Families have a right to full and open answers’

Following the announcement, Ms Freeman told STV News: “So I think it is clear that what the board has not been able to do so far is clearly answer questions that patients and families, parents in this particular interest, have an absolute right to ask.

“And they have a right to get full and open answers.

“So it’s clear, I think, from everything I’ve said so far, that the board has simply not been good enough at that – and so we need to work directly with them from government to get that right.”

She added: “Level five is basically where government comes in and takes over. You can’t have that position forever. You need to be able to help a board get to where they need to be.

“So this is a mix of government intervening and making clear instructions and checking that they are followed, and so on, at the same time as we help the board to get to where they need to be, so that we can then step away when we are confident that it is working and the board can get on and do their job.

“Proper infection prevention and control, and engagement and information-giving to patients and families should be business as usual.”

Whistleblower lifted the lid on child deaths

Investigation: Milly Main and Mason Djemat died three weeks apart in 2017.

The health secretary previously expressed her “deepest sympathies” to the parents of ten-year-old Milly Main and three-year-old Mason Djemat who died three weeks apart at the £842m QEUH in August 2017.

Two wards at the RCH on the campus were closed in September last year following concerns from Health Protection Scotland over incidents of water contamination.

Milly’s parents were reportedly not told about the water contamination link, which emerged following investigations into infections in children in the cancer wards at the RHC two years ago.

Her mother, Kimberly Darroch, said she was “100%” certain Milly died due to infected water at the hospital.

Mason’s mum, Victoria Freeman, has also railed against the lack of information coming out of the health board.

On Sunday, police confirmed they had investigated Mason’s death and had passed a report to the procurator fiscal.

Labour: The children’s deaths emerged after MSP Anas Sarwar was contacted by a whistleblower. Getty Images/ Jeff J. Mitchell

The children’s deaths emerged after Labour MSP Anas Sarwar was contacted by a whistleblower that claimed an internal investigation uncovered 26 cases of the infection stenotrophomonas in child cancer patients at the RHC – in addition to the 23 found by an official investigation.

Earlier this week, Ms Freeman revealed that she was yet to see the findings of the doctor-led investigation that was allegedly carried out in 2017 into possible infections at the hospital.

NHSGGC has refused to comment on the investigation raised by the whistleblower, but issued an apology to families for its poor communication.

On Friday, the health board stated: “We welcome the additional support offered and are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government to implement any recommended additional changes and enhancements across infection control and associated engagement.”

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