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Opening of new children's hospital delayed to 'protect patients'

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The opening of a new children’s hospital in the Scottish capital has been delayed at the eleventh hour after final inspections found safety flaws.

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said she had ordered the postponement of the launch of the £150m Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh to protect patient safety.

“It is vital that patient safety remains paramount”

Jeane Freeman 

The new hospital, which is located on the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary campus and replaces the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, was due to open on Tuesday but Ms Freeman announced yesterday that it would be delayed indefinitely.

This decision was taken after final checks revealed that the ventilation system within the critical care department in the new hospital was not meeting national safety standards.

The Royal College of Nursing in Scotland said it would be supporting nursing staff who would be affected by the delay.

Ros Shaw, senior RCN officer, said: “Patient safety must be the top priority and we support the cabinet secretary’s decision to delay the move until patient safety can be assured.

“It is however extremely disappointing that these concerns had not been picked up before now and that the decision to delay the move was taken at such a late stage.

“We will be supporting nursing staff at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the Western General Hospital and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital to understand the implications delaying the move will have for them and the patients they care for.”

Ms Freeman has asked NHS Lothian to act as “quickly as practicable” to ensure all aspects of the hospital, including the ventilation, are safe and meet national standards.

She has instructed the health board to set out a plan of how it will move departments within the old hospital to the new site on a phased basis once it is safe to do so. 

“We are extremely disappointed that we cannot move as planned”

Tim Davison

External quality assurance will be provided by Health Facilities Scotland and Health Protection Scotland and final decisions will be taken by the Scottish Government.

Ms Freeman has also asked Health Facilities Scotland to carry out an investigation to find out how the project got to such an advanced stage before the ventilation problem was spotted.

“There is no greater responsibility of the NHS than to ensure the clinical safety of their patients, not least when those patients are children,” said Ms Freeman.

“In order to be absolutely sure that patient safety is delivered, I have no choice but to postpone NHS Lothian’s planned move to the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People.

“It is vital that patient safety remains paramount, which is why I have asked the health board to stop all moves until assurances have been given that the new site is entirely compliant with the relevant health technical standards.”

NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison said he sought advice from his independent advisor and fully accepted Ms Freeman’s decision.

“The air environment is extremely important and can help prevent the occurrence and spread of infection in patients who are already vulnerable,” said Mr Davison.

“We are extremely disappointed that we cannot move as planned and I am very sorry for the disappointment this will cause to patients, their families and staff affected by this delay. However, patient safety must always come first.”

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