Parents have lost faith in hospital as safe place for children, inquiry hears

·4-min read

Many parents whose children were treated at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital have lost faith in it as a safe place for them to be cared for and want answers over what went wrong, an inquiry has heard.

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry began hearing evidence on Monday into problems at two flagship Scottish hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.

It is investigating the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

The inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.

Steve Love QC is appearing on behalf of 54 parents or family members of patients, represented by Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, who were or are still being treated on the children’s cancer ward and neonatal unit at QEUH.

In his opening statement, he said: “The children of those we represent were admitted to hospital for treatment for serious illnesses such as conditions like leukaemia and other cancers as well as other serious medical issues and they reasonably expected that the best possible medical care and treatment would be provided for their children in a suitably safe and clean hospital environment.

“Your Lordship will be told that what they in fact faced was serious infections, life threatening additional illnesses and a catalogue of other problems as a result of the hospital environment, the hospital water supply and the conduct of some of the medical staff there.”

He said that “significant numbers” suffered infection from 2017 onwards and that parents “could not believe that the hospital environment was as far as they were concerned making their already sick children more ill”.

Mr Love said: “Parents of the children affected want answers for what happened, what went wrong and why.

“Many of them have lost faith in the hospital as a safe place for their children to be treated.”

He added: “They put all of their trust and faith in the NHS, they trusted the doctors and the nurses to whom they turned, they trusted their expertise, they trusted their honesty, they trusted that their loved ones would receive the best care available in a safe environment. They were let down.”

Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.

The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.

It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.

Lord Brodie
The inquiry is chaired by Lord Brodie (PA)

Two of 22 deaths were, “at least in part”, the result of their infection, it said.

Kimberly Darroch, the mother of 10-year-old Milly Main who died in the QEUH in 2017 after contracting an infection, has led calls for further investigation into issues at the hospital.

In his opening statement, Peter Gray QC, representing NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said it welcomed the inquiry and is determined to ensure that the issues which have required to be addressed in both hospitals do not arise in other future NHS infrastructure projects.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Brodie, also heard from a man whose 10-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer after he became unwell in July 2018 when he was aged seven, and was found to have a kidney tumour.

He was treated in the Schiehallion unit, the children’s cancer unit at the QEUH where Mr Gough praised the doctors and nurses as “incredible” and said it was the “gold standard” of care.

The inquiry heard that in August 2018 concerns were raised about the safety of the water in wards 2A and 2B and filters were fitted to taps.

The father said parents were told not to drink the tap water or use it for brushing teeth or washing up which he said caused him “a wee bit of concern” and that this deepened when his son developed a hospital acquired infection.

He also said that he was “angry” that the shower room in one of the rooms his son stayed in flooded, with “potentially poo-ey water” spreading across the floor, and was told it was not an isolated incident.

The inquiry continues.

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