THE INVESTIGATION into problems at Scotland's £842m super-hospital may not be concluded for another 18 months, we can reveal.

The independent inquiry into the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) launched in January, however recruitment for three key staff members only finished last month.

Job adverts for an office manager, documents and evidence manager and research manager closed at the end of June, with adverts stating the jobs would last up to 18 months.

Concerns have been raised about the length of time investigators will take to conclude the probe after three children with cancer were struck down with bugs while being treated at the hospital in the space of two weeks.

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It has also emerged the inquiry bosses have instructed a professor with links to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC)'s director of facilities to be its main advisor.

Professor Billy Hare, professor of construction management at Glasgow Caledonian University, runs the institution's BEAM research centre and has been appointed the main advisor to the investigation.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's director of facilities Tom Steele sits on the BEAM centre's advisory board, and is also responsible for the maintenance and operation of the NHSGGC estate, including the QEUH.

The university, NHSGGC and the private PR company handling the inquiry insist there is no conflict as there would be no discussion about the inquiry by the BEAM centre's board.

Cabinet secretary for health Jeane Freeman announced the inquiry into the design, commissioning, construction, handover and ongoing maintenance of the hospital following the death of a 10-year-old boy who was being treated for cancer in December.

He became infected with Cryptococcus - a fungus linked to bird droppings - which was a contributing factor in his death.

Since the probe was launched in January three children have been struck down with infections while being treated for cancer at the QEUH and their ward has been closed to new admissions.

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As revealed by the Herald on Sunday on July 28, a child was infected with a bacteria linked to the water system in ward 6A, where patients had been transferred following an outbreak of infections at the Royal Hospital for Children.

The following week, two more children became ill with separate rare infections on the same ward prompting NHSGGC chiefs to shut the unit to new patients while they investigated.

The health board said no source has been identified for the first, water-borne, infection and that the investigation has now been closed. A spokeswoman also confirmed there is no indication that the two other infections are linked "to the ward’s infection control practices or the environment".

Monica Lennon, Labour's shadow cabinet secretary for health, said:“Public confidence has been severely tested by the ongoing problems at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, so it’s vital that the independent inquiry is transparent and robust.

"Any perceived close working relationships between the inquiry advisors and senior NHS figures won’t help to rebuild trust and confidence.

"After several months, it’s not good enough that this inquiry has barely started and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman must update Parliament as a matter of urgency.”

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said there was "no sense of urgency" and added: "A cloud still hangs over the hospital because of this crisis, and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this probe getting a move on.

“And the longer it takes, the more chance there is of more vulnerable patients being put at risk by these failings.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “Two years [from when the inquiry was announced] would be too long to wait for answers on the devastating infections at the so-called super hospital.

“It seems clear that the Health Secretary must inject some urgency into the inquiry. We cannot afford to progress at this pace if it puts patient safety at risk. We need to learn the lessons, and fast.”

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A spokeswoman for the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Independent Review said: "Professor Hare is with the Review in an advisory capacity only. As with any review of this nature, all staff are required to complete a Register of Interests. We are absolutely sure there is no conflict of interest in this case.

"The recruitment of staff is carried out in parallel with work flow to efficiently reflect the needs of the review as it progresses. The most recent appointments deal principally with documentation management for which there is now a greater demand.

"The co-Chairs have made it clear that if there work finds anything of significance they will of course immediately pass the information to the relevant bodies.

"The Review will also provide transparent and regular updates on progress.

NHSGGC said: "There is no conflict of interest with Mr Steele sitting on an advisory board which does not discuss in any shape or form the independent inquiry in to the QEUH/RHC.

Glasgow Caledonian University spokesman said: "The BEAM Advisory Board invited Tom Steele to be a member in light of his professional expertise as Head of Health Facilities Scotland (HFS).

"When he moved to NHSGGC, where he is charge of Scotland’s largest technical healthcare estates workforce, the Board remained keen for Tom to continue to contribute to its work.

"The Board is purely advisory in its capacity, with no operational or governance role. It is important to make clear that this Board has never discussed the external inquiry into QEUH/RHC.

"Similarly, Professor Billy Hare has never discussed the inquiry with anyone out-with the remit of the role he is undertaking. Professor Hare is acknowledged as a leading international expert in his field."