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Health secretary rejects inquiry call for sick kids' hospital

Jeane Freeman says more details about when the new facility may open could become clear next week.

New sick kids' hospital in Edinburgh.
New sick kids' hospital in Edinburgh. NHS Lothian

Jeane Freeman has rejected calls for a public inquiry into delays at Edinburgh's new specialist children's hospital.

The health secretary says more details about when the new facility may open could become clear next week.

Liberal Democrats challenged Ms Freeman to hold a full inquiry into the "fiasco" at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, after the opening of the flagship new building was delayed just days before it was due to start treating patients.

The hospital was expected to open in July but the health secretary stepped in and over-ruled NHS Lothian.

Freeman acted after final checks revealed the critical care department's ventilation system did not meet national standards.

She told MSPs that two reports she commissioned - including one by KPMG - should be be published on September 11.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton challenged her on the issue as MSPs returned to Holyrood after the summer break.

"The opening of this flagship hospital was cancelled 100 hours before patients were due to arrive and we still don't know when it will open," he said.

Meanwhile, NHS Lothian is handing over about £1.4m a month to private consortium Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) for the facility while children are still being treated in the existing hospital building - with Mr Cole-Hamilton describing this as "well past its sell-by date".

He demanded: "Serious questions are once again being asked about this Government's ability to deliver major capital projects.

"Will the health secretary today instruct a full public inquiry into this fiasco?"

Ms Freeman rejected this, saying: "No, I will not at this point. "I have commissioned two reports, they are on track to be published next week, as Mr Cole-Hamilton well knows, and I will make a statement to Parliament at that point."

When the reports are published, the health secretary said she would be able to answer more "detailed questions, including giving a clear timeline of when we expect the move to the new site".

She added: "In all of that my driving interest is patient safety."

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