Parents of children being treated for cancer at Glasgow’s flagship hospital have demanded to know why they have been given prophylactic antibiotics and antifungal drugs if the hospital is safe.

Charmaine Lacock, a spokeswoman for parents with children at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children, said the policy had been in place since the complex opened.

Ms Lacock, whose three-year-old daughter has been treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the facility since August 2018, said: “Before the hospital opened it was decided that the children would get prophylactic medication.

"From 2015 all our kids get medication that no other hospital in Scotland, in the UK or abroad, give to their children.

“This was premeditated. They knew that there was a problem, but they were going to try and mask it with these medicines. These medicines are still being given.

“Parents are asking why are our children still on these medicines? We don’t get a clear answer. They claim that it is a case to case situation. It is not.

“If your child has a central line in, they will be on a prophylactic antibiotics and a prophylactic antifungal.”

READ MORE: Fresh infection probe at QEUH following child death

It comes after it emerged that a youngster in oncology ward 6A of the QEUH died last Monday.

The patient, who has not been named, had contracted a hospital-acquired infection (HAI) but it is not yet clear whether this was a causal or contributory factor in their death.

Three other HAI cases from the adjacent children’s hospital have also been reported to Health Protection Scotland in recent weeks, amid mounting pressure on NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) over water safety.

Leaked reports last week revealed that experts had issued warnings of a high risk of infection from drains, showers and sinks before the complex opened in 2015.

Dozens of children with cancer went on to contract infections linked to the RHC water supply, with bacteria cited on the death certificate in 2017 of 10-year-old leukaemia patient Milly Main.

Chief executive Jane Grant - who took on the post in April 2017 - said she was not made aware of the water reports until 2018, but stressed that action has since been taken to “address all of the issues” raised.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “NHS GGC and the Scottish Government insist that the hospital is safe but refuse to tell parents why their children need to be given strong prophylaxis antibiotics.

“If Ward 6A and the rest of the hospital is safe, why is this precautionary measure necessary? Days after the health board insisted the hospital is safe, a child who had a hospital-acquired infection has died and an investigation is underway.”

READ MORE: Health board told of infection risk when scandal-hit hospital opened 

Cancer patients are more likely than other people in hospital to contract infections because their immune systems are weakened by chemotherapy.

However, the benefits of using antibiotic and antifungal agents prophylactically are disputed. A 2016 Lancet study said the benefits did not outweigh the risks, including increasing antibiotic resistance, and that their use should be “limited” unless backed by robust clinical trial evidence.

A group of parents of 15 children being treated at the site said at the weekend that they had no confidence in the board and called on the existing leadership to step aside pending the results of ongoing investigations.

Ms Grant insisted that the hospital campus is safe and that the leadership team are committed to being “open and transparent”.

She said: “In 2018, when the water issues were addressed, then we had a number of people - Health Protection Scotland, Health Facilities Scotland - working with us, and, as soon as those issues were raised, everything possible was done both internally and also external advice and we have now got independent advice that everything possible has been done, that everything that should have been done has been done.”

An NHSGCC spokeswoman said: "Some children in this group are routinely prescribed prophylactic antibiotics at certain times as part of their clinical treatment plan.

"As a precautionary measure, in August an Incident Management Team recommended that prophylaxis be prescribed to patients in Ward 6A while we undertook environmental testing of the ward. 

"This testing has concluded and there is no link to the ward environment or the infections being investigated.  Therefore, the prophylaxis that was offered to children as a precaution while we were investigating the incident will now be reviewed.

"As some children will require prophylaxis associated with their illness rather than the ward environment, it is important that their doctor has the opportunity to have a full conversation with the family before making a decision that is best for the child.

"We would encourage any parents to speak to their child’s clinical team if they have any questions specific to any medicine that has been prescribed for their child."

READ MORE: Probe finds spike in infections at time of girl's death at RHC

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring that matters relating to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are dealt with transparently and with clear accountability.

"That is one of the reasons the Health Secretary has instructed a public inquiry to be chaired by Lord Brodie.

"The decision by Health and Social Care Management Board to escalate the board from stage 2 to 4 on the performance framework was in recognition of the need for decisive action.

"The Health Secretary has already committed to updating Parliament shortly.”