NHS blunder delays Multiplex hospital opening a year

12 September 2019 | By Neil Gerrard

Multiplex's £150m Edinburgh children's hospital will open more than a year later than planned, due to problems with the facility’s building services caused by a tender error.

Remedial work could add £90m to the construction cost, and follows an earlier £11.6m payout to the contractor over build standards.

The first patients had been due to move into the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP), built by the IHS Lothian consortium, made up of Multiplex, Bouygues E&S FM, architects HLMAD and Macquarie Capital, in July this year.

However the move was delayed after it was discovered that issues with the ventilation system in the critical care facility at the hospital did not meet national standards. A series of tests were commissioned to check the facility met the relevant technical specifications and guidance.

Now a review of the governance arrangements for RHCYP by KPMG has found that the main issue with the ventilation stemmed from an error in a tender document produced by NHS Lothian in 2012. The document stated that the ventilation system for the single-bed cubicles and four-bed rooms in the critical care unit needed to be capable of four air changes per hour, when in fact they should have been capable of 10 air changes per hour.

The KPMG report blamed human error and confusion over interpretation of standards and guidance and also concluded that opportunities to spot and rectify the error were missed.

A range of issues with the building’s ventilation system, including additional problems in the oncology and haemotology departments and problems with the hospital's water systems, need to be fixed before a phased move into the hospital. The Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN) is now expected to move in in spring 2020, with the rest of the children’s hospital moving to the new site in autumn 2020.

The Scotttish government’s health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I am of course bitterly disappointed that a mistake made in 2012 was not picked up earlier. This is a publicly funded project of strategic importance, which has not been delivered by NHS Lothian in compliance with the standards and guidance. The delay we now face will be borne by NHS Lothian staff, by patients and their families and the additional cost will be to the public purse.

“My overriding priority is that the children and families who depend on these hospital services can receive them in the safest way possible. The current situation is not one anyone would chose – but it is one I am determined to resolve.”

The hospital cost £150m to build but an Audit Scotland report published in August found that the problems meant it would cost an additional £90m. A further £11.6m has already been paid out to IHS Lothian to end a dispute over construction standards at the hospital, which has been built under the Non-Profit Distributing system - a private financing model similar to PFI. Audit Scotland now estimates the total price tag for the hospital over its lifetime to be £520m.


When the priority for employing engineers is based purley on their capability to use a particular CAD system and not their engineering expertise, things like this will always happen. An experienced engineer with hospital design experience would probably have spotted that error. Incidentally, did anyone check if an engineer did in fact query that?
There is too much emphasis on digital system familiarity being a priority when employing engineers and less on actual design/construction expertise.
In my opinion, perhaps there would be less problems with construction projects if there was a willingness to employ experienced, older engineers. The CAD systems can always be learned.

Hugh Thomson, 12 September 2019

So the blame game continues. Many people will have had opportunity to question along the way. Everyone makes mistakes. Was there a culture of keeping quiet/ acquiesence/ bullying whereby error or uncertainty could not be voiced? Now the children have to 'carry the can'.

Brian Wood FCIOB, 12 September 2019

How is that a 'tender error'?

Surely it was a design & specification error? Or a project quality control error?

The fact that the design was incorporated into tender documents to select a contractor is secondary.

Ian Heptinstall, 13 September 2019

Is a competent principal contractor responsible to reasonably validate or query compliance with regulatory and performance requirements including and especially national standards? Responsibility for this scale of error is more complicated than an error in specification not picked up by numerous experts during a design process and 7 years. Management without consequence is the root fault here with a multitude of essays to be written on the various contributing factors to fail. How embarrassing! Luckily we’re not paying for......

JET, 13 September 2019

The blame game continues.
The design team will have been working on the design pre-contract for several years.
The tendering contractors will have had a matter of weeks, months perhaps to prepare and submit their tenders.
Is the principal contractor a checking service for the designers, or are they builders?
At what point do professional designers and project managers actually take responsibility for what they produce, rather than hide behind smoke and mirrors?

JOHN EYNON, 16 September 2019

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