A crisis-hit hospital in Edinburgh has cabling flaws that could trigger a fire, according to emails from the local health board to the SNP Government.

Documents reveal problems with the air handling units (AHU) in the unopened Sick Kids facility could lead to smoke and fumes entering clinical areas.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “This is a very serious matter and it needs to be urgently addressed.”

The £150m Sick Kids hospital was planned to open in 2012, but was delayed amid disputes between NHS Lothian and IHSL.

Although patients were expecting the hospital to finally be up and running in July, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman intervened at the last minute after concerns were raised over ventilation and drainage.

Government-commissioned reviews confirmed the difficulties and Freeman recently informed MSPs that part of the building would not open for another year.

A public inquiry will examine the problems that have beset the Sick Kids and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

Emails released under freedom of information legislation reveal the communications between the board and the Government in the aftermath of Freeman’s decision to halt the opening.

One of the documents contains a matrix of 39 separate issues with the Sick Kids, some of which had been resolved.

Fifteen entries relate to AHUs, which are large metal boxes used to regulate air as part of a heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system.

The warning flagged up a concern that the cabling inside the AHUs had the “potential” for electrical faults to cause a fire “within the airstream”.

It added: “Potential for smoke/fume to enter clinical areas. Cables and connectors will be difficult to clean and soapy water used to clean AHU internals may impact on connections.”

The same document noted that a “similar situation” was found at an NHS hospital in the North East of England in 2016, adding: “All wiring had to be removed from AHUs before handover to Trust.”

It also claimed that the flaw did not “affect safe operation”, but IHSL were to submit a remedy plan without interrupting theatre activities.

Another email reveals a split between NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison and the Government on whether the opening of the hospital should be shelved.

On July 3rd, Davison presented four options: continue with the planned move and make the changes at the same time; push ahead, but decant critical care facilities into a “modular build unit”; defer moving altogether; or delay for a “few weeks and months”.

The chief executive backed the last option, but Freeman halted the move until safety concerns were addressed.

The emails also appear to raise questions about the accuracy of the claims made by NHS Lothian to the Government.

Davison informed civil servants that the board believed the ventilation problems could be resolved in four months, but Freeman has postponed the opening until late next year.

Scottish Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “Building a new children’s hospital on time and on budget is something the Scottish Government should be capable of. Instead, the project is badly delayed, and we are constantly hearing of more problems with the construction.

“All this shows is the SNP government should have got in and sorted this project out long before now.”

Susan Goldsmith, Director of Finance at NHS Lothian, said:

“The four month timescale to resolve the ventilation issue in critical care was an estimate based on the best evidence we had at that time following notification by the Independent Assessor commissioned by NHS Lothian to carry out final checks. In consultation with Health Facilities Scotland, it was subsequently agreed to undertake further investigations. We are working with the contractors to scope remedial works to modify the design of air handling unit cabling .This work will be completed before any migration of service”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ensuring fire safety in hospitals and other public buildings is an absolute priority, and we expect all health boards to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.

“The NHS National Services Scotland report, commissioned by the Health Secretary, is focussing on number of key areas including fire safety, and we will consider their recommendations when published in detail.

“An expert Oversight Board has also been established and we have put in place a Senior Programme Director, Mary Morgan, who has taken responsibility for day to day delivery of the RHCYP operational phase from now until the site is fully occupied. Funding necessary for any rectification works for fire safety has been included in the £16 million of additional investment the Health Secretary set out to the Scottish Parliament recently.