Health board to take legal action against hospital contractor

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has instructed legal action be taken against a private contractor involved in building the crisis-hit Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

Health board bosses have recommended starting court proceedings against construction firm Brookfield Multiplex amid infection concerns and in the wake of children dying in the hospital.

At an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC) board meeting on Tuesday, chief executive Jane Grant revealed lawyers have been instructed to prepare legal action against the contractor “as a matter of urgency”.

Ms Grant said in a statement following the meeting: “Having sought independent legal advice, we can confirm the Board today has agreed to pursue legal action.”

The findings of a review to address building concerns cannot be published due to the legal proceedings but will be made public when possible, the health board chief said.

Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour MSP for Glasgow, said: “This hospital was commissioned by the health board, the building was overseen by the health board, it was signed off by the health board despite warnings about the high risk of infection, it was opened by the health board and the infections scandal was subsequently covered up by the health board.

“If senior managers are now accepting there were problems with the hospital, who is going to take responsibility for opening it and putting patients at risk?

“At the heart of this scandal is not a contractual arrangement, but a catalogue of failings and a cover-up by hospital managers which led to a child losing their life.”

NHS GCC was escalated to stage four of the NHS Board Performance Framework by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman last month following its response to the infection scandal, with two children believed to have died in an affected ward in 2017.

In Scotland, a five-stage scale is used to show the level of oversight for stricken health boards.

First Minister’s Questions
Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon (Jane Barlow/PA)

“It’s important that the public inquiry Scottish Labour pushed for gets to the bottom of this once and for all – including what the health board knew at the time the hospital was signed over.

“But most importantly, the public needs to have confidence that this building is safe for patients now.”

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “This is another depressing twist in a sorry saga, created by the SNP Government’s mismanagement of a major hospital building project.

“This legal action will not reassure patients or staff or reduce the chances of infection at the hospital.”

Raising the prospect of further action concerning the long-delayed opening of the children’s hospital in Edinburgh, he added: “If Multiplex has also failed to deliver on their contract of building a safe new hospital at the Sick Kids in Edinburgh, which there is a strong argument for, then NHS Lothian should not rule out similar legal action.

“SNP ministers have shown a total inability to manage the contracts for the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, and it is a travesty that we are in the position that we are.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The decision to take legal action is entirely a matter for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board.

“We understand that the board intends to take the action against those responsible for delivering the building project as a matter of urgency.

“The Scottish Government and the board are committed to making progress in tackling critical issues of importance to patients and their families with the fullest possible level of transparency.

“Subject to the need to maintain the confidentiality of reports prepared with a view to legal proceedings, we have been clear with the board that we expected any relevant reports to be published as soon as possible.”

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