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Inquiry pressure builds as millions paid for empty hospital

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon called for a public inquiry.

Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.
Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh. Wikimedia

Opposition parties have called for an inquiry after it emerged a health board is paying developers more than £1m a month for a new hospital which is unable to open for safety reasons.

NHS Lothian is handing over around £1.4m a month to private consortium Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) for the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.

The new hospital was expected to open last month but Health Secretary Jeane Freeman stepped in to overrule the health board's plans due to failed safety checks.

It is not known when the site will be safe for use and the NHS is carrying out a review of the water, ventilation and drainage systems.

NHS Lothian began paying around £1.4m a month in an annual service payment to IHSL in February when the hospital was handed over to the the health board.

The hospital is being paid for via the non-profit distributing private finance model supported by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Futures Trust.

The total contracted cost for IHSL to design, build, finance and maintain the hospital over 25 years is £432m.

An NHS Lothian spokeswoman said: "The annual service payment started when the building was handed over to the board in February."

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon called for a public inquiry into the project.

In a tweet, she questioned whether the health secretary knew and accepted that NHS Lothian "would be charged £1.4m for an unusable, empty hospital" when blocking its opening on safety grounds. She continued: "If so, what did she do to try and stop this nonsense? "A public inquiry is needed."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "It is yet another kick in the teeth to learn that NHS Lothian has been making repayments of around £1.4m a month since February, given the hospital has been shown to be unsafe to open. Hundreds of hospital beds are gathering dust.

"An independent inquiry into how this entire build has been managed, including how it has been overseen by SNP ministers, is now necessary."

Previously, the Scottish Conservatives have called for a Scottish Parliament inquiry to establish what went wrong to prevent the hospital from being safe to open.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Health Secretary has been clear her first priority is patient safety, and all necessary actions are taken to allow the move to go ahead as quickly and safely as possible.

"In addition, the Health Secretary has confirmed KPMG have been engaged to conduct an independent audit of the governance arrangements for the hospital and to provide an external and impartial assessment of the factors leading to the delay."

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