A PUBLIC inquiry is to be launched into the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s new children’s hospital.

The Scottish Government said it was acting on recent concerns raised by parents about safety at the QEUH following a series of ward closures linked to infection risk.

The Government said the inquiry will determine how flaws in ventilation and other key building systems occurred, and what steps can be taken to prevent this being repeated in future projects.

The QEUH is already at the centre of investigations by the Crown Office into the deaths in December and January of two cancer patients - a 10-year-old boy and woman aged 73 - who had contracted infections caused by a fungus found in bird droppings. 

READ MORE: Leaked documents reveal 'highly abnormal' ventilation system

A review was also commissioned by the Scottish Government in January into the design, build and maintenance of the QEUH, and whether this had increased healthcare infection risk at the facility. 

Two paediatric cancer wards in the adjacent Royal Hospital for Children were also closed in September 2018 following a string of infections linked to the water supply, with young patients moved into the adult hospital instead. 

However, on Monday it emerged that some children were being sent to Edinburgh or Aberdeen for treatment instead due to “a number of unusual infections” in Ward 6A of the QEUH. 

Meanwhile, reports leaked to the Herald on Sunday at the weekend revealed that independent consultants and public health experts had previously raised the alarm over a number of design flaws at the £840 million Glasgow super-hospital, which opened in 2015. 

Private contractor Innovated Design Solutions said the ventilation design for Ward 2A - one of the cancer wards in the RHC which later closed - appeared “likely to promote the risks associated with uncontrolled ingress of infectious aerosols into patient areas”. 

The air-handling units which take air in and out of the hospital were found to be too small, and the number of air changes per hour - three rather than 10 - was “significantly lower than would normally be expected” for patients with severely restricted immune systems. 

READ MORE: Families 'disgusted' over extent of problems at Glasgow superhospital 

Issues were also raised in relation to design in both the adult and children’s bone marrow units, and with missing or incorrect records about the building. 

Similar problems have emerged at the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP) in Edinburgh.

Independent reports by KPMG and NHS National Services Scotland, published last week, revealed that the ventilation system in its critical care unit did not meet building standards. 

The error was blamed on a document produced by NHS Lothian and distributed to bidders during the tender stage in 2012 which wrongly set out a specification for four air changes per hour instead of the 10 needed to minimise infection risk for the sickest patients.

KPMG said multiple opportunities to spot the error were missed until a last-minute inspection in June this year, just days before the facility was due to open. 

Issues were also uncovered in relation to theatre ventilation, drainage and hygiene, with 10 per cent of taps checked testing positive for pseudamonas aeruginosa, a pathogen which causes severe acute and chronic infections. 

READ MORE: Taxpayers face extra £16m bill to fix delayed Edinburgh Sick Kids

Remedial works on the RHCYP will cost taxpayers an estimated £16m, and push back the opening date for the children’s hospital to autumn 2020 - more than three years later than planned. It also means the total cost of the project will exceed £450m. 

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “The safety and well-being of all patients and their families is my top priority and should be the primary consideration in all NHS construction projects.

“I want to make sure this is the case for all future projects, which is why, following calls from affected parents, I am announcing a public inquiry to examine the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital sites.

“The recent KPMG and NSS reports into the new Edinburgh Children’s Hospital will provide a significant amount of the underpinning evidence for the inquiry alongside the ongoing independent review into the delivery and maintenance of the QEUH.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman, Monica Lennon MSP, welcomed the move, but said it should not have taken “weeks of pressure” from patients, families and opposition MSPs. 

She said: “Children in Scotland are being let down because the hospitals they were promised are not fit for purpose.

“We have two hospitals built by the same contractor that are mired in controversy, and all the while patients are suffering.”

The design and build of both hospitals was carried out by Australian construction giant, Brookfield Multiplex. 

Scottish LibDem health spokesman, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “We cannot have young patients being treated in facilities that are not up to scratch.”

Jane Grant, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said she welcomed the public inquiry.

She said the health board had “taken a number of measures to improve the hospital environment for our most vulnerable patients” since 2015, and that further work is currently underway. 

NHS Lothian referred the Herald to the Scottish Government statement.