Scotland's health secretary has said Glasgow's NHS board will be subject to "special measures" following the deaths of two children.

Mason Djemat, three, and Milly Main, 10, both died while undergoing treatment for leukemia on a ward later found to have been affected by water contamination at the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) - part of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman and the board themselves have both since apologised to their families.

READ MORE: Senior infection staff at QEUH quit over concerns of safety

However, Ms Freeman said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) would be escalated to stage four of the NHS Board Performance Escalation Framework - meaning it would be subject to an oversight committee chaired by chief nursing officer, Professor Fiona McQueen.

In a letter to the Scottish Government’s health and sport committee, Ms Freeman said the action was necessary to “strengthen public confidence”.

She wrote: “In light of the on-going issues around the systems, processes and governance in relation to infection prevention, management and control at the QEUH and the RHC and the associated communication and public engagement issues, I have concluded that further action is necessary to support the Board to ensure appropriate governance is in place to increase public confidence in these matters and therefore that for this specific issue the Board will be escalated to Stage 4 of our performance framework.” 

“This stage is defined as ‘significant risks to delivery, quality, financial performance or safety; senior level external transformational support required.’

“The intention of the escalation would ensure appropriate governance is in place to increase public confidence and strengthen current approaches that are in place to mitigate avoidable harms.”

HeraldScotland: Mason Djemat, left, and Milly Main, pictured with mum Kimberley, left, both died while undergoing treatment at the hospitalMason Djemat, left, and Milly Main, pictured with mum Kimberley, left, both died while undergoing treatment at the hospital

It continued: “As a result, an Oversight Board will be put in place, chaired by Professor Fiona McQueen, Chief Nursing Officer.”

“Professor Craig White will continue to lead and direct the work required to improve the provision of responses, information and support to patients and their families and also to explicitly support improvements in the delivery of effective clinical governance and assurance within the directorates identified through the work carried out to date.

“This will be augmented with specific support for Infection Prevention & Control, communications and engagement.”

A whistle-blower from the hospital came forward earlier this month, telling Labour MSP Anas Sarwar there had been 26 cases of infection, with Milly being among those hit.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said the measure puts the future of the board’s leadership in doubt.

“This is a long overdue intervention in a health board which has lost the confidence and trust of families long ago,” she said.

“It shouldn’t have taken parents and staff whistle-blowers speaking out to force the Government into taking special measures.

“The Scottish Government must now confirm whether they are happy for the chief executive and the current leadership team to continue in their roles.”

She added: “The chief executive is managing a board which has badly let down many families and this cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Health Secretary has called a public inquiry to be held into the issues at the QEUH and delays to the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.

She has told the Scottish Parliament she hopes to have appointed a chairperson to the role by Christmas.

Mr Sarwar welcomed the measures, saying: “Jeane Freeman has taken the correct course of action.

“The Glasgow health board is not fit for purpose, and this is a necessary step following the unforgiveable failings of senior management.

READ MORE: Mother seeks answers after boy’s death at Royal Hospital for Children

“The focus now must be to tell parents, patients and the public the truth about infections at the hospital.

“I pay tribute to the brave whistleblowers who came forward to shine a light on the catastrophic failings in the hope that nothing like this can ever happen again.

“My thoughts are with Milly’s mum Kimberly and her family. She is one step closer to getting the truth.”

A spokesman for NHS GGC said: “We welcome the additional support offered and are committed to working closely with the Scottish Government to implement any recommended additional changes and enhancements across infection control and associated engagement.”