SNP refuses to sack hospital board after two child deaths

2 December 2021, 08:14 | Updated: 2 December 2021, 08:15

Anas Sarwar urged MSPs to show they had “no confidence in the leadership” of the board – but Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP moved against the motion.
Anas Sarwar urged MSPs to show they had 'no confidence in the leadership' of the board – but Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP moved against the motion. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

A bid to force the Scottish government to sack a troubled NHS board has failed.

Scottish Labour’s attempt to clear out the leadership of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde board, after patient safety concerns were raised, was stymied by SNP and Scottish Green MSPs.

The party’s leader Anas Sarwar last week revealed that whistleblowers at the hospital had told him two more children had died at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital as a result of hospital-acquired infections.

In a debate motion he urged MSPs in Holyrood to show they had “no confidence in the leadership” of the board and called for ministers to “escalate the NHS board to stage five of the performance escalation framework without delay.”

Health secretary Humza Yousaf at the debate.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf at the debate. Picture: Getty

However an amendment by health secretary Humza Yousaf was backed by SNP and Scottish Green MSPs instead – defeating Mr Sarwar’s motion by 64 votes to 54.

It changed the motion from condemnation to one offering condolences to families who had lost a loved one, praising the work of frontline NHS staff at the hospital and stating that the board had completed 91 per cent of 108 recommendations following a previous review.

It also said there would be a further review of aspergillus infections at the hospital.

Aspergillus is a mould which it was recently revealed contributed to the death of Andrew Slorance, a senior civil servant who was a patient at the hospital.

Louise Slorance, Kimberly Darroch and Anas Sarwar at the press conference.
Louise Slorance, Kimberly Darroch and Anas Sarwar at the press conference. Picture: Alamy

His widow Louise Slorance gave a press conference ahead of the debate – meeting for the first time Kimberley Darroch, who had lost her ten-year-old daughter Milly in 2017 while she was a patient at the hospital. She is believed to have died after contracting a water-borne infection.

The hospital did not tell either family of the infections caught while their loved ones were in its care.

Speaking at the press conference, both women praised the frontline staff at the hospital but called on bosses to resign or be sacked.

Ms Slorance said: “I think the Scottish government now need to show whose side they’re on, whether it’s ours or the health board management team.”

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Ms Darroch added: “We have worked tirelessly to stop this from happening again and that was my main focus after Milly died.

“The main reason that I came into public life was so that no family had to go through what I went through.

“That hasn’t happened, it’s continued to happen and it will continue to happen until something is done about the leadership of the health board.”

Also ahead of the debate, 23 senior clinicians at the hospital wrote to first minister Nicola Sturgeon and health secretary Mr Yousaf, complaining about their “immense disappointment and frustration about the way in which our hospitals, our colleagues and the treatment of our patients is being portrayed in the press and the chamber of the Scottish Parliament".

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Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Sarwar said he wasn’t attacking the clinicians but the management.

He said: “I have no confidence in the leadership of your health board. You deserve a leadership that doesn't try to silence you. That doesn't try to bully you. Perhaps most of all, as we have seen this week, you deserve a management that doesn't disgracefully attempt to spread the blame to staff.

“I know they're letting you down. And this fight is as much for you as it is for the patients and families.”

He accused the board of trying to “gaslight the entire staff base at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in order to protect your jobs at the top.”

He added: “Do not underestimate the resolve of the staff, patients and families. They cannot be silenced. They cannot be managed away. I have spoken to them. And I've made them a promise as a representative, but more importantly, as a father, I will not stop. I will not go away. I will not rest until I get the answers and the justice you, your families and the staff deserve.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “When families watch their loved ones going into hospital, they expect them to see that world leading health care that our NHS is so highly respected for. They don't expect an NHS hospital to be the cause of death of their loved one.”

He called for a further independent inquiry to be held into the ministerial response to the “avoidable” deaths at the hospital.

Ms Sturgeon was the only party leader not to be in Holyrood for Labour’s debate.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton hit out at her absence.

“It's a rare occasion when this chamber sees the leaders of all opposition parties in attendance to discuss a topic of such public importance, which with feelings that run so deep into our society that we are all compelled to lead for our parties.

"It is dismaying that the first minister has not found an hour in her diary to attend parliament to address the problems at this hospital, a hospital which she commissioned, a hospital which serves patients in her own constituency, and one in which problems have gone unaddressed on her watch. I find that contemptible.”

However Mr Yousaf said: “Each and every single one of my colleagues and my backbench colleagues or indeed, my colleagues in government, and of course, I include myself in this. I suspect we are all on the same side, on the same side as Douglas Ross, same side as Anas Sarwar, the same side as Alex Cole-Hamilton.

“Each and every single one of us wants the best, most safe patient experience for members of the public.”

He said the government had “taken action” and pointed to seven different reviews. “Those recommendations haven't sat on a shelf, 98 per cent of those recommendations have been implemented. And 80 per cent of the oversight board recommendations have also been.

“Of course improvements, where they can be made must be made. Huge improvements have been made.”