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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 03 September 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Affirmations, Topical Question Time, Programme for Government 2019-20, Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd, European Union Farming Funding (Convergence Funds), Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Palestine


Topical Question Time

Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (Opening)

1. Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government by what date the Royal hospital for children and young people in Edinburgh will open. (S5T-01752)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

On 18 July, I informed Parliament that, on 4 July, I had instructed the planned move to be halted in the interests of patient safety. I also said that I had commissioned NHS National Services Scotland to undertake a detailed assessment of all the building systems in the new hospital that could impact safe operation for patients and staff. I said that that would determine the timeframe for migration of services to the new hospital and that a full report was anticipated in September.

That timetable remains on track and publication is expected on 11 September, following which I intend to make a statement to the chamber outlining our planned next steps.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for that reply.

The opening of this flagship hospital was cancelled 100 hours before patients were due to arrive, and we still do not know when it will open. Somebody in the food chain signed off the hospital in February, which seemingly absolved Multiplex of any contractual responsibilities. Who signed it off? Did the Government and NHS Lothian agree with their findings and their decision at the time?

Jeane Freeman

As Mr Cole-Hamilton undoubtedly knows, on 2 July, NHS Lothian alerted the Scottish Government to the issue with the ventilation system in the critical care unit on the new site. That is why, in addition to halting the move, I commissioned NSS to undertake all the other compliance checks that I mentioned. Because we had been informed so late of the problem with the critical care unit, I wanted to be assured that every other aspect of the site was compliant with requirements and guidance.

As I have said, at the same time, I commissioned KPMG to investigate the timeline for the whole design and build of the hospital in order to identify why we had got to that late stage before the critical care problem was identified. Both those reports will be published on 11 September and at that point, having had sight of those reports—and with members in the chamber having had sight of those reports and my statement—we will be able to undertake more detailed responses to those questions.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

The unopened hospital is costing the public purse £1.4 million every single month. Children are being treated in a hospital that is well past its sell-by date and we are still not entirely sure what went wrong. Serious questions are once again being asked about this Government’s ability to deliver major capital projects, so will the health secretary today instruct a full public inquiry into this fiasco?

Jeane Freeman

My short answer to that is no, I will not, at this point. As I said, I have commissioned two reports; they are on track to be published next week, as Mr Cole-Hamilton well knows, because I believe that next week’s business is well known. I will make a statement to Parliament then. At that time, all the information that is available to me will be available to members in the chamber. We will then be able to answer some of those detailed questions, including giving a clear timeline of when we expect the move to the new site to be made safely for the patients, staff and families involved.

In all this, my driving interest is patient safety and I am sure that that is the interest of everyone across the chamber.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

I ask members to keep their supplementaries concise throughout the afternoon.

Angela Constance (Almond Valley) (SNP)

Patient safety, particularly the safety of children, is a priority for us all. When I have advocated for the children’s ward at St John’s hospital, senior managers at board level have always insisted that patient safety is their priority. Given the intervention from the cabinet secretary to postpone the move so that the new hospital is as safe as it possibly can be, can she advise us whether managers at the most senior levels of NHS Lothian have taken responsibility for these issues, as there is no place for inconsistency in relation to the safety of children receiving national health service services?

Jeane Freeman

I certainly agree with the member that there is no place for inconsistency—or slackness or negligence—in relation to patient safety. NHS Lothian managers at all levels are clear about my expectations. When we have the KPMG report about the decision-making chain all the way through since the hospital was first designed and the NSS report on compliance at other levels and various sign-off decisions that were made, we will have a better understanding of how we got to this very late stage before it was clear that the hospital was not safe for in-patient services and critical care to be moved to because it did not meet the standards required, which meant that I had to take the decision that I took. At that point, I am sure that members will want to look further at these matters.

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

The impact on NHS Lothian of this further delay to the opening of the sick kids hospital raises serious questions about the financial sustainability of the board, which is already projecting a financial shortfall of £29.5 million for this financial year. Will the cabinet secretary therefore confirm whether Scottish National Party ministers will help to meet the future costs around the sick kids hospital project?

Jeane Freeman

I have been clear from the outset that cost will not hold us back in terms of ensuring that the new hospital is fit for purpose and is safe for patients and staff. At this point, it is not absolutely clear what the additional costs might be, as work continues to identify exactly what critical care design, procurement and installation work is necessary. Once that information is known, members will have that information.

I have been clear all along that I will be completely transparent about the information that I have and the rationale that I use to take decisions and members will know about all that. At that point, we will understand what additional costs are required. Of course, if the Government assists with those costs, members need to be clear that the money will come from within the NHS health portfolio, so other aspects of healthcare across Scotland may need to be paused, delayed or moved on in order to meet any additional costs that have to be met in this regard.

Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Members have mentioned the importance of patient safety and the need to be consistent. What has been done to protect the neuroscience patients at the existing site, who include people with brain cancer, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease, and who have been assessed as being at high risk due to the delay, following fears over water safety in the current building?

Jeane Freeman

NSS is undertaking a specific risk assessment of the new site to determine whether it is possible to move that unit from the Western general to the new site at the earliest opportunity. That risk assessment is balanced against some of the difficulties for the unit in the existing site, which the member rightly mentioned. The overall risk assessment will balance the two together, and I will then make a decision about what is best for that unit at the Western general.

The Presiding Officer

I apologise to Neil Findlay and Daniel Johnson, but I will not be able to call them. I hope that they will have an opportunity to ask a question when we have a statement on the issue next week.

Woodmill High School (Support for Pupils)

2. Alex Rowley (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what support it is providing to Fife Council to deal with the impact on pupils of the fire at Woodmill high school. (S5T-01751)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney)

I would first like to record the Government’s appreciation for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and for the exceptional contribution of its personnel in trying to save the school infrastructure during the fire on 25 August.

The Scottish Government has been in regular contact with Fife Council since the fire at Woodmill high school to assist recovery and to minimise disruption to the pupils’ learning. I personally reiterated that support to the headteacher and the director of children’s services when we spoke last week. At my request, the Scottish Futures Trust is providing on-going support and advice to the council regarding options to accelerate pupils’ return to a serviceable building as soon as practicable.

I pay tribute to the headteacher and staff of Woodmill high school for their efforts in ensuring that young people have had access to learning since the fire and for ensuring that, during this week, all secondary 1 to 6 pupils will return to full-time education, with additional support needs pupils returning to full-time education on Monday.

I am pleased to confirm that the Scottish Government, in partnership with Fife Council, will include the construction of a new Woodmill high school in the first phase of the learning estate investment programme. Detailed discussions will take place with Fife Council and the local community on the approach that is to be taken to implement that commitment.

Alex Rowley

I, too, pay tribute to the firefighters as well as to the police and those in the local community who had to deal with the situation. I also pay tribute to Fife Council, which has put in place short-term measures. However, those are only for the short term. I appreciate what the cabinet secretary says about the replacement of Woodmill high school but, even with the best will in the world, it may take three or four years for that to happen. The challenge is what happens in the medium term. Even if part of the existing building can be rescued and refurbished, that will not be enough, so a programme will need to be put in place. The worry is about what happens in the medium term.

John Swinney

I completely understand the issues that Mr Rowley fairly raises. In the short term, the priority has been to restore full-time education to young people. I am grateful to Fife Council for the way in which that has been handled and for the co-operation of Fife College, which is accommodating some of the S5 pupils; St Columba’s high school, which is accommodating the S6 pupils; and Queen Anne high school, Beath high school, Inverkeithing high school and the Vine conference centre, which will provide accommodation for most of the remainder of the school, with the ASN pupils going to Blairhall primary school.

Obviously, this is a disruptive period, but the short-term priority has been to restore full-time education for all the young people. Mr Rowley is correct that we have to move to a medium-term solution, because schools cannot be built in a day. With the support of the Scottish Futures Trust, we are in active discussions to put arrangements in place to meet the young people’s needs.

At this stage, it is unlikely that much of the school infrastructure can be utilised, although that is yet to be finalised. That is the subject of the detailed work that is under way. As Mr Rowley will know, site clearance work, initiated by Fife Council, is under way at a very fast pace. I assure the member that the Government will engage closely with Fife Council to support the medium-term arrangements, which I recognise to be a significant priority for families, pupils and staff.

Alex Rowley

I welcome the response. As well as praising the teachers in Woodmill high school for dealing with what they have had to put up with, we should praise all the other teachers and schools in the area that are working hard to accommodate the children. That is for the medium term. In the longer term, the cabinet secretary said that the replacement of Woodmill high school would become the priority. Is he still looking at a joint campus with St Columba’s high school, and will discussions on that take place, because grounds are now available at Woodmill high school to build such a campus?

John Swinney

When I spoke to Mr McIntosh, the headteacher at Woodmill high school, last week, one of the significant issues that he addressed was how the Woodmill support and ethos could be maintained when pupils are dispersed across six or seven sites. He was very keen to make sure that pastoral support for pupils is available at all those locations and that the correct arrangements have been put in place to support that.

On the longer-term questions, as Parliament knows, the Government has been engaged in discussions with Fife College and Fife Council about the creation of a new campus that would draw together Fife College, St Columba’s high school and Woodmill high school. Those discussions are very active. Indeed, shortly before the fire at Woodmill high school, I had an update conversation with both Fife College and Fife Council. I am keen to progress those proposals, because they are of significant benefit to the local community. As I said in my original answer, they will be the subject of detailed discussion with Fife Council because, obviously, the circumstances have changed as a consequence of a fire that none of us anticipated we would be wrestling with.

We will engage in those discussions with Fife Council and I hope that the Government commitment under the learning estate investment programme to the rebuild of Woodmill high school will be of significant reassurance to the local community. I will visit the site tomorrow to reinforce those points.

The Presiding Officer

I apologise to Annabelle Ewing and Mark Ruskell, as there is not enough time for further supplementaries.

Scottish Prison Service (Fatal Accident Inquiry Determination)

3. Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what action the Scottish Prison Service has taken in response to the determination of the fatal accident inquiry into the death of Allan Marshall at HMP Edinburgh. (S5T-01746)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Humza Yousaf)

First and foremost, I express my condolences to Allan Marshall's family. Any death in our care is a tragedy. I am determined that our justice system continues to learn and improve so that we can avoid such tragedies from happening again in the future.

In his determination, Sheriff Liddle makes 13 recommendations about steps that he considers might realistically prevent deaths in similar circumstances in the future. The SPS is rightly reflecting on the recommendations in detail and, in line with provisions in the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Act 2016, will provide a full response to all the recommendations within eight weeks.

The SPS has also confirmed that a range of actions were taken immediately following the incident, including additional training for staff.

The SPS has now established a working group to address the sheriff’s specific recommendations, in particular with reference to control and restraint and the understanding of medical conditions that may be triggered or indeed exacerbated by the use of restraint. The SPS will seek additional external expert advice as part of the review

I have been clear that lessons must be learned and to ensure independent oversight, I have written to Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons asking her formally to provide external assurance to the SPS’s actions following the FAI recommendations, in conjunction with relevant independent experts, as required.

The SPS met members of Mr Marshall’s family yesterday and I will also meet them to discuss their concerns and the actions being taken in response to this very tragic incident.

Rona Mackay

I want to express my condolences to Allan Marshall’s family, and I sincerely hope that lessons will be learned from this tragic case. One of Sheriff Liddle’s recommendations refers to a review of control and restraint. Will the cabinet secretary outline what work will be carried out by the SPS to ensure that all staff are fully trained in that respect?

Humza Yousaf

I will be brief, because I think that I made reference to that in my previous answer. Immediately after the incident, some work was undertaken in relation to the training involving control and restraint, but the short-life working group will look at the processes around control and restraint. The SPS has recognised that external expert advice should be fed into that but, to give further reassurance, I have also asked HM inspectorate of prisons for Scotland to give independent external oversight to that process. That will clearly be an issue of interest for many—first and foremost, for Mr Marshall’s family, but more widely, no doubt, for the Parliament. I will endeavour to keep the Parliament up to date in the most appropriate way possible.

Rona Mackay

Will the cabinet secretary ensure that the Justice Committee is updated on any further developments?

Humza Yousaf

Yes. I will make sure that that is done through the committee, and if members who are not on the Justice Committee have an interest, I will endeavour to keep them updated also.

Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

Rona Mackay rightly identified that the training and qualifications of prison officers are clearly of great import. The Scottish National Party’s 2017 programme for government promised a prison officer professionalisation programme. Has that been delivered?

Humza Yousaf

The reason why that professionalisation programme has not come to fruition is that the members rejected it in a ballot. I do not think that Liam Kerr would expect us to override the members’ concerns when that was put to ballot. There is still an outstanding question about professionalisation. The SPS is in continued conversation with the Prison Officers Association about professionalisation but, of course, we have to listen to the members and take them, prison officers and others with us.

Notwithstanding that, the work that the short-life working group is doing will, we hope, bring a level of confidence to particular training on control and restraint that will give the public the confidence that they need.

The Presiding Officer

Again, I recognise the level of political interest in the subject. I apologise to James Kelly, John Finnie and Liam McArthur, as there is simply not enough time this afternoon for everything that we want to raise. That concludes topical questions.