FAMILIES of sick children have criticised Government and health chiefs after a series of leaked reports reveal flaws at the heart of two of Scotland’s flagship hospitals.

Documents passed to The Herald on Sunday detail the extent of the issues which have affected the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) since opening.

Families, politicians and experts have now joined in calls for a full-scale inquiry, as records reveal issues with ventilation not being the right size, missing or inaccurate building records, and energy-saving devices not fit for hospitals.

One parent said our revelations confirmed parents’ suspicions about safety, and added: “This is a cover-up ... You have to wonder how this all got signed off in the first place.”

Read more: The documents in detail

It comes just days after the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced that the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh will not open for another year, and is to cost upwards of £16 million to fix.

Nicola Sturgeon was grilled by MSPs about the issues, saying she “deeply regrets” the delay at the Edinburgh hospital, and apologised to families of children in Glasgow who had contracted infections while being treated at the QEUH.

Problems identified by investigators into the Edinburgh facility included issues with ventilation not meeting national standards and record-keeping at the build – startlingly similar to some of the issues revealed today about Glasgow’s flagship sites.

The cache of reports obtained by The Herald on Sunday include a study into increasing the air circulation within ward 2A of the children’s hospital – a cancer ward – which is currently out of use after dozens of children contracted infections last year.

However, the study by a private contractor also states there may be wider problems with the ventilation across both hospitals, and records about building work had been wrong or in some cases had parts missing, making it difficult to investigate further.

Ventilation systems are essential in hospitals as, when working correctly, they help protect patients from external pathogens and ensure the air they are breathing is clean and free of bacteria.

The report also reveals that ceilings would need to be torn down and fixtures taken out of the children’s cancer ward and the ventilation system replaced entirely.

Assessors estimated it would cost £2.8m and take at least a year to fix the one ward.

We have also obtained a health watchdog report from October 2017 warning NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) that its plans to fix adult bone marrow transplant suites in the QEUH did not “meet guidance” or “seek to address all the recommendations”.

Adults with cancer were moved initially to the QEUH when it opened in April 2015, but were moved back to the Beatson cancer unit three months later due to air quality in the new wards.

By September 2015, NHSGGC management were discussing issues with the children’s bone marrow transplant units, which had also been found to have flaws. Out of the eight suites, six needed upgrading to make them suitable for bone marrow patients.

The health board said that two were upgraded “in line with projected demand” and added: “Testing confirmed full compliance with the appropriate technical building requirements. A team of clinical, estates and infection control experts all agreed that the facilities were suitable for use.”

NHSGGC say cancer patients who did not require bone marrow transplants were accommodated in the other four.

Children were moved out of the bone marrow transplant suites, as well as ward 2A, three years later in September 2018 after more than 20 young cancer patients contracted infections.

We revealed last week that 13 young patients in the QEUH had infections between April and September.

Families have today hit out at the revelations, calling for the hospital to be closed until a full-scale inquiry takes place.

Politicians have also questioned the Government’s previous statements that the hospital site was safe, and said Health Minister Jeane Freeman can no longer blame health board chiefs.

Annemarie Kirkpatrick, whose teenage daughter was receiving treatment for leukaemia when she became infected with a rare bug at the QEUH, said: “I am absolutely disgusted. The ventilation report is highlighting really serious issues, which would have been there at the time children were being treated in that ward. They were at risk for three years.

“They have kids going through some of the hardest things they will ever go through in their lives ... They have chosen to put these children in that hospital, knowing there were problems and knowing that it was unfit. They have risked children’s lives. I speak for all the parents when I say this, we feel as though they have tried to mislead us.

“When we asked questions, they would say that the hospital is safe and then move on to something else, instead of being up front.

“It was like that with everything. They would say ‘the ward is fine, the hospital is fine’ and clearly it is not.

“The whole place needs fixed, and patients shouldn’t be in there if they cannot guarantee that it is safe. Parents are not stupid, and this proves what we thought was right – the hospital is not safe. Someone needs to start standing up and admitting what is going on, and getting these children out of that hospital.

“They need to go into another unit or another hospital, they need to come out right now. There needs to be a public inquiry, what they are doing is not good enough. It cannot wait for years until the investigation is finished.”

Ms Kirkpatrick was joined by Alfie Rawson whose three-year-old daughter Paige is currently receiving treatment for cancer.

He said: “Having read these reports, it proves exactly what we have previously said – this is merely a cover-up from hospital management and the government, who were all aware of the issues. You have to wonder how this all got signed off in the first place.

“Parents have been made to feel like we were over-protective, paranoid and over-reacting when asking questions and then given letters from the hospital, trying to say infections are normal and common. It’s a new hospital – should infection rates not be lower?

“Now they really have nowhere to go on this given ward 2A is closed and ward 6A is closed for admissions.

“They must come clean or a public inquiry must be held to find out who is responsible. Our children and all the parents deserve answers.”

Critics say the Government has not taken responsibility for the problems with the new Edinburgh hospital, instead blaming NHS Lothian.

With the addition of the reports into Glasgow today, politicians say Freeman and her SNP colleagues must take responsibility for the failures which have happened under their watch.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservatives’ health spokesman, said: “These are deeply concerning reports.”

Reflecting on the similar concerns detailed in this week’s report about the Edinburgh hospital, he added: “Clearly there needs to be an urgent investigation into whether the ventilation systems in Glasgow do not meet the recommendations and whether it will need a total refit. If that is the case then it will have severe impacts on the operational future of the hospital.

“This week SNP ministers have blamed ‘human error and confusion’ for the ventilation system at the Sick Kids hospital not meeting standards. It would now seem from the reports that the ventilation system in Glasgow has identical issues – mistakes have been made in the ventilation systems at two major projects commissioned by two separate health boards.

“SNP ministers are simply not in control of our NHS. [They] are quick to blame NHS management but the buck stops with them.”

Monica Lennon, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said a public inquiry was “no longer optional” and added: “How much more evidence do we need to see that there are major problems with this hospital?

“There are similarities between the problems at QEUH and Edinburgh Sick Kids. Jeane Freeman can no longer blame health board management.

“How can it be a coincidence that both hospitals have problems with ventilation, water, and record keeping for their construction?

“SNP ministers have used a huge amount of taxpayers’ money on these facilities and they must be held accountable. Passing the buck on to individual health boards is not good enough. Patient safety and the reputation of our NHS is at stake.

“Nicola Sturgeon took the credit for these hospitals but if she blocks a public inquiry she will be known as the First Minister who tried to cover up incompetence and chaos. She must agree to an independent public inquiry and open her Government up to scrutiny.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the LibDems’ health spokesman, added: “That decisions were taken to move specialist units into facilities that were unfit to receive them is a shocking revelation.

“Nothing should ever compromise the safety of either patients or staff and that means ensuring all new buildings are compliant with all standards for the kind of treatment and care offered by those units.

“If someone has been playing fast and loose with the rules around patent safety so that they could keep the build on track, then that demands the full glare of public scrutiny.”

NHS and Government reaction

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde:

"These documents relate to issues which have been widely covered in the media over the course of the past three years including a number which we ourselves proactively issued to the media.

"An upgrade was carried out in four BMT isolation rooms in 2015 in line with projected demand. Testing confirmed full compliance with the appropriate technical building requirements. A multidisciplinary team of clinical, estates and infection control experts all agreed that the paediatric BMT facilities were suitable for use. Over the years, the unit has successfully treated a number of patients with cancer related illnesses with good UK bench-marked outcomes.

"We have previously openly and publicly stated in 2017 that work was carried out on the adult BMT unit to ensure optimal air quality purification levels for this group of patients. The resulted in a significantly improved environment for BMT adults and again we have successfully treated many patients in this unit.

"We have also previously reported that we are proactively investing £2 million to upgrade the ventilation system in Ward 2A and B to provide optimal, state of the art facilities for all our young haemato-oncology patients.

"Infection rates within the Royal Hospital for Children are low. The most recent national survey of all hospital infections was carried out in 2016 and this showed the Royal Hospital for Children to be below the national average – with rates of 3.6%.

"The next annual Scotland-wide survey is not due to take place until 2020. In the meantime, ongoing monitoring shows that our rates of bloodstream infections are significantly better than many other units – including the old Yorkhill hospital – and are comparable with world leading hospitals such as Great Ormond Street."

Scottish Government:

“We expect NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure the necessary control measures are in place and are continually reviewed to ensure patients, their families and visitors are safe – and the Health Secretary has communicated this directly to the board’s chair.

“Patient safety is paramount, which is why the Health Secretary has commissioned an Independent Review which is already looking at the design, build, commissioning and maintenance of the QEUH.

“Given the clear expectation from the Scottish Government that health boards should deliver the safest care possible in line with established guidance, the Independent Review will ensure that these matters are fully investigated and resolved. We welcome the open approach taken by the Independent Review as we believe it is important that key stakeholders are able to make their voice heard.

“We understand that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are currently undertaking work to improve the ventilation system in the cancer wards 2A and 2B, so that they meet the current ventilation guidance. Going forward, the soon to be established new national Centre of Expertise will take on the responsibility of ensuring that new builds comply with all relevant guidance.”