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New HLM-designed hospital may have to be ‘ripped down’, warns union official

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An almost-completed £150 million hospital for children in Edinburgh, designed by HLM Architects, might have to be taken down amid safety concerns, a trade union official has warned

Tom Waterson, chair of Unison’s Scottish health committee, said he had spoken to senior NHS Lothian staff in recent weeks about concerns over drainage at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People at Little France.

He said: ‘People are unable to confirm whether the drainage that has been put in is fit for purpose. We need to find out what’s happening before everyone moves in.’

Speaking to the BBC, Waterson claimed that problems with the building’s drainage had been identified as long as 36 months ago but contractors had pressed ahead.

He said: ‘There is a school of thought that they might have to rip it down. How do you fix drainage in a building when it’s x number of feet beneath the building? I’m not an engineer, but it’s not going to be easy.’

In a further twist, the opening of the hospital was postponed by Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman last month because final safety checks revealed concerns about the ventilation system in the critical care department.

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service had been scheduled to move from their current home in Sciennes Road to the new complex.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The Health Secretary has made clear that her greatest responsibility is the safety of patients, and for this reason decided to delay the move of patients, staff and services to the new hospital.’

Alex McMahon, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said: ‘There are a number of independent reviews and investigations under way to verify and provide assurance that all aspects of the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services meet the appropriate standards before it becomes operational.

The reviews will focus on ventilation and look at drainage and water systems as a priority

‘The decision to delay the move followed the identification of a problem with ventilation in critical care. Given the pause in occupation, the commissioned reviews will focus on ventilation and will also look at drainage and water systems as a priority.

‘An oversight board, made up of Scottish Government, NHS Lothian, National Services Scotland and Scottish Futures Trust, has been established in order to provide co-ordinated advice on the readiness of the hospital to open and on the migration of services to the new facility.

‘The reviews and subsequent reports will be provided to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and NHS Lothian.’

The new hospital had originally been scheduled to open in autumn 2017 but no official opening date has yet been set.

HLM declined to comment. 

Royal hospital for sick children, department of clinical neurosciences and child and adolescent mental health service mj richardson

Royal hospital for sick children, department of clinical neurosciences and child and adolescent mental health service mj richardson

Source: M J Richardson

The hospital under construction in 2017

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Was this a D&B contract?

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  • The concerns about the safe performance of this new children's hospital in Edinburgh might well have been accentuated by the discovery of contamination problems in the ventilation and water systems of the new Queen Elisabeth megahospital on Glasgow's southside, following child fatalities.
    But this potential scandal is surely not related to questions on faulty drainage, and there's the further wider question of the fitness for purpose of quality management in building standards, design and construction supervision nationwide.

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  • Surely design of ventilation and drainage systems will fall outside of the architects area of knowledge? I would be interested to know if the brief requirements and full department occupancy had been finalised when works started on site?

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  • One would like to know why the AJ publishes such poor, un-researched articles as this.

    It seems that QEU Hospital had some problems, of drainage etc, presumably now fixed / fixable. Is it the case that Mr Waterson chooses (perhaps imagining hopefully) to project these on the Royal Hospital, implying without substance that it has similar problems. Mr Waterson then seems to use ‘no confirmation of fit for purpose’ to justify his assertions. Sure, major projects (hospitals or otherwise, whether d&b or not) have problems that get fixed (Negatives are harder to prove than positives, and who needs to prove them to Mr Waterson either way?).

    Whilst it might suit the purposes of Mr Waterson from his union perspective, does this article meet the required integrity standards of architect or associated professions, or indeed of journalism other than the worst tabloid type? I really don’t think so.

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