Revealed: Two more children die from infections at Glasgow super-hospital

25 November 2021, 22:00

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. Picture: Getty
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

Two more children have died from hospital-acquired infections at Glasgow’s state-of-the-art super-hospital, it was revealed today as Nicola Sturgeon was urged to step in and sack the health board.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar made the revelation at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) has been at the centre of controversy in recent years, with a number of people dying after contracting infections linked to the water and air conditioning, including 10-year-old Milly Main.

A public inquiry has already been established to investigate the conditions at the hospital.

Last week it was also revealed by the widow of senior civil servant, Andrew Slorance, who was treated in the hospital last December, that his death was not solely Covid-related, but that aspergillus, an infection linked to a type of mould, played a part.

Now Mr Sarwar has said a senior clinician at the QEUH has told him the same infection was found in a child cancer patient who later died. The child had been in the hospital at the same period as Mr Slorance.

A separate clinician had also told him of an infection just two months ago in the paediatric hospital where the patient later died – four years on from the death of Milly Main, who died after contracting a waterborne infection.

In quotes sent to the media by the Labour leader, the clinician, who warned of the infection at around the same time as Mr Slorance, said: “A child cancer patient died after contracting the infection in November 2020.

“It begs the question – if there was a case as far back as 4 November what did the health board do to investigate it? Did they look for an environmental source and could future infections have been prevented?

“In cases like this, where two patients have died of aspergillus in short order, a HIIAT (Healthcare Infection Incident Assessment Tool) Red report should have been filed and therefore the health secretary informed.

“Why was this then not acted on? We could have lost the chance to prevent subsequent infections and deaths.”

Mr Sarwar also claimed the clinicians were being “bullied” and feared “retribution.”

The second staff member said: “Within the last few months there has been at least one death in the paediatric hospital where a child was infected by a bacteria linked to water and the environment.

“We can't hide behind a public inquiry. We need urgent action now so we can make it safe and provide the necessary reassurances about the risk from environment and water supply.”

Mr Sarwar urged the first minister to use emergency powers to allow ministers to take control of the hospital and fire the heads of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“The health board has failed, the Scottish government oversight board has failed and frankly the first minister continues to fail,” he said.

“I have been raising this in this chamber for years and I've heard the same answers and the same excuses.

“Infections are happening now, patients are dying now.”

He added: "Sack the leadership of the health board today, sack the oversight board today and use your emergency powers to take control of this hospital.

“First minister, how many more families will have to be devastated before you do the right thing?”

However, Ms Sturgeon said: “Sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital, that is why the actual work has to be done.

“When concerns are raised about the cause of someone's death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

She added: “These are serious matters – they are serious matters all of us should take seriously but we do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.

“That is the duty of government and that is the duty we will continue to take seriously.”

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board said: “It’s a painful tragedy for any family to lose their child and we would like to share our deepest condolences with both families.

"We welcome open discussions with anyone who may have questions around care provided and would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the families to speak with us directly, when they feel able to do so.

“Infection control procedures at the QEUH are rigorous and of the highest standard. The Hospitals Public Inquiry is currently underway, and we have been providing every support to the inquiry team and will continue to do so. We are also providing support to both patients and staff throughout the process.”