A PARENT whose child is being treated for cancer at Glasgow’s scandal-hit superhospital has branded an independent review into patient deaths “a whitewash”.

Charmaine Lacock, 42, from Glasgow, said a report into the design, build and maintenance of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital “tells us nothing” and has not helped to allay fears that the site is not safe.

She has been visiting the hospital since 2018 when her daughter Paige, now four, was first diagnosed with leukaemia.

The report concluded that flaws in the building’s ventilation and water supply systems meant that blood cancer patients in particular were “exposed to risk that could have been lower”.

READ MORE: Pigeon droppings not source of cancer patients' infections

However, it said there is “no clear evidence” linking these failures to avoidable deaths, and that the site was now safe following upgrades to ventilation and drainage.

Ms Lacock said: “It tells us nothing really. We need an apology. They knew our children were not safe, it says it there in black and white that the hospital building was a risk. But yet, nothing was done. People were arguing with one another, not listening to each other, infection control and senior managers were not working together.

“Children died and others got infected. I still do not believe our kids should be being treated in there at all.”

She added: “Every parent I have spoken to today has said the same – the report is a whitewash.”

One of the biggest surprises in the review was a conclusion that there is no “sound evidential basis”to link pigeons at the QEUH with the deaths of two cancer patients who developed infections caused by Cryptococcus - a fungus commonly found in bird excrement.

Investigators told the Herald the particular strain they contracted is not common to pigeons, but even so there is no evidence to show how fungal spores could have entered the ventilation shafts and passed to an area of the hospital where the patients were being treated.

The source of infection is still being probed.

The review was commissioned following the deaths of three patients with unusual fungal infections - two with Cryptococcus and one with Mucor.

A separate, ongoing review is examining whether 80 infections among children treated for cancer in paediatric oncology wards can be linked to problems with ventilation or the water supply.

Investigators said the health board and its contractors had “set out to comply with standards consistent with a more conventional hospital”, and in doing so failed to meet the needs of high-risk patients who were to be treated at the QEUH and its adjacent children’s hospital after they opened in 2015.

READ MORE: Build and design of hospital 'put cancer patients at risk' - but 'no clear evidence' of link to avoidable deaths 

Clusters of infections later led two paediatric oncology wards to be closed.

The report said: “The remedies required to tackle the serious infection clusters, systemic shortcomings and sub-optimal design and operation, have come at great cost.

“They have had substantial impact on patients’ and families’ wellbeing although without directly attributable deaths, and substantial public expense that extends from pharmacy costs through to capital investment in water systems.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is suing lead contractor, Multiplex, for £73m in damages over the build.

Investigators said they held “informal discussions” with the construction giant at the start of the review, but no formal interviews took place following the launch of legal proceedings.

It said NHS GGGC has replaced non-compliant water, drainage and ventilation systems “in order to minimise the risk of infection” to cancer patients.

Both the QEUH and Royal Hospital for Children “now have in place the modern safety features and systems that we would expect of a hospital of this type”, they said.

However, the review criticised “inadequate and reactive” communications by NHS GGC with the press when serious infection problems potentially linked to the building arose, and discovered “friction” among infection control colleagues.

The review states: “From the outset, the three infection control doctors (ICDs) who, between them, had Infection Prevention and Control responsibilities for the whole hospital complex, did not work successfully as a team.”

Independent scrutiny during the QEUH construction project was “not sufficient”, said investigators, and the health board “didn’t make full use of the expertise available within its workforce”.

“There was a pattern of individuals with experience offering assistance being declined,” said the review.

Some documentation relating to the construction process was also missing.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said patients and families “will be understandably concerned and distressed by some of the findings”.

Jane Grant, chief executive of NHS GGC said: “This has been a very difficult period for our patients, their families and our staff for which we apologise.

“The findings highlight several areas of learning for NHSGGC. We remain fully committed to applying the learning from this experience.”