Millions spent on water supply issues at flagship hospital

A total of £6m has been spent addressing water supply issues at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

Millions spent on water supply issues at flagship hospital SNS Group
Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

An action plan to prevent contaminated water infecting patients again at a Glasgow hospital is being finalised by medical professionals.

A total of £6m has been spent addressing water supply issues at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) after 84 children were infected with Gram-negative environmental (GNE) bacteria between 2015 and 2019. 

A further £8m has been invested in Wards 2A and B, which includes a significant upgrade on the ventilation system.

The action plan also promises to look at governance and project management within the hospital and the effects this experience has had on patients and their families. 

Most of the children affected had a diagnosis of cancer or leukemia; their ages ranging from three months to 18-years-old. 

A minority of patients had other forms of serious blood disease or another condition requiring the expertise of a haematologist or oncologist.

Although over three quarters of patients experienced only one episode of infection, ten had two episodes and several had three or more episodes, up to a total of eight episodes in one patient.

The Scottish Hospitals Public Inquiry was launched in August 2020 with the next set of hearings scheduled to take place late 2021/early 2022.

While the programmes for the hearings have not been published yet, it has been indicated that the initial focus will be on the inquiry into the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

A report by the Scottish Government also encourages NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) to take immediate steps to ensure it monitors and investigates GNE infections in Paediatric Haematology Oncology patients as the work to date has been “fragmented and is incomplete”.

Over the past year, NHSGGC has worked closely with the oversight board and Professor Angela Wallace, appointed by the Scottish Government as interim director of infection prevention and control.

They have reviewed and strengthened their infection control and protection arrangements including the development of stronger relationships between the infection prevention and control team and microbiologists.

Following the initial review, Jane Grant, chief executive of NHSGGC, said: “This has been a very challenging time for patients, families and staff and I am truly sorry for this. For families, children and young people undergoing cancer treatment this is already an incredibly difficult situation and I very much regret the additional distress caused.

“Whilst we have taken robust and focused action to respond to issues, and at all times have made the best judgements we could, we accept that there are times when we should have done things differently.

“I would like to thank our staff who have worked so hard in difficult circumstances to deliver quality care, putting our young patients and their family at the centre of everything they do.

“With the improvements that have already been made and that continue to be made, infection rates at the hospital remain low.  Patients and families can have confidence in the care they receive and in the environment within which they receive it.”

An NHSGGC spokesperson added: “This has been an incredibly difficult period for patients, families and staff and we are very sorry for the distress caused.

“There have been important issues for us to address and we have taken these seriously. We are committed to implementing the recommendations from the recent reviews in full. We have made significant progress so far and continue to work closely with the Scottish Government to deliver on these commitments.”

Story by local democracy reporter Catherine Hunter