Pictures show mould at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital ahead of no confidence vote

Party leader Anas Sarwar has accused the First Minister of a “dereliction of duty” for failing to act as Scottish Labour force a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the health board running the troubled Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow.
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The hospital is at the centre of a public inquiry that is examining the construction of the QEUH campus and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

Nicola Sturgeon has been under pressure to sack the board of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde following the death of Andrew Slorance, a top Scottish Government official, whose widow accused the health board of concealing information about a potentially life-threatening fungal infection to protect the reputation of the hospital.

Debate on hospital leadership

Scottish Labour will today lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the future of the health board’s leadership and force a vote of no confidence.

MSPs will be forced to choose being behind backing or sacking the health board, with Scottish Labour also demanding that ministers intervene and take control of the health board.

The First Minister has repeatedly said the government is taking action and has pointed at the public inquiry as evidence for this, with the SNP tabling an amendment backing the board’s leadership.

The vote comes as Scottish Labour released pictures of mould at the hospital, published in a recent academic paper.

Pictures of mould growth at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.Pictures of mould growth at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
Pictures of mould growth at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The paper links the mould to aspergillus, which Mr Slorance contracted during his time at QEUH, and says black mould was found at 13 dialysis points across the hospital and behind sink panels.

The paper said the growth of the mould was considered to be likely linked to the construction and design of the building.

Problems linked to the hospital’s construction were first raised following the death of ten-year-old Milly Main, who died after becoming infected by a rare bacteria while at QEUH in 2017.

The schoolgirl was one of 84 children who were infected while being treated, with a third suffering a severe health impact.

During First Minister’s Questions last week, Mr Sarwar revealed two further deaths at QEUH which could have been linked to the infected water supply at the hospital and called for the health board’s leadership to be sacked.

Responding, Ms Sturgeon argued that “sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital”.

What is Anas Sarwar saying?

Speaking ahead of the vote, Mr Sarwar said the refusal to act was a “dereliction of duty”, and attacked the “four years of inaction and hiding behind process”.

He said: “People are still dying from preventable hospital acquired infections.

“A culture of bullying and intimidation at the board continues to leave staff fearful of speaking out. I have every confidence in the frontline staff, I have no confidence in the leadership of the board.

“The leadership at the health board and the oversight board put in place by the SNP Government have failed.”

He added: “Given the ongoing risks of Covid, winter pressures and the continuing issues of infection control due to the water and hospital environment, it is abundantly clear that we need a management that has the trust of the public.

“We need a leadership that is focused on delivering patient safety, not on spinning, bullying and cover-ups to save their jobs.

“That is why families are demanding this hospital is taken under direct ministerial control so we can get a grip of this crisis. The refusal of the First Minister to act is a dereliction of duty.

“Today’s vote is a line in the sand. Enough is enough.

“MSPs have a choice. They can side with families, clinicians and those campaigning for patient safety or they back a culture of secrecy, cover-up and incompetence which has had fatal consequences.”

How has the Scottish Government responded?

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have already set out that where a water leak is identified in a hospital, they will investigate for mould growth around affected areas.

“Where there is any evidence of mould, steps are taken to remove it with full infection prevention and control oversight.

“The academic paper, which was published nine months ago, itself makes clear that no patient harm was caused in the scenarios described, and that mould growth occurs in hospitals across the UK on a regular basis.

“Both we and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are clear that where possible preventative action should be taken to minimise the risk of mould growth, and where it is identified that it is addressed swiftly.

“The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has been subject to a number of independent reviews and the board are well advanced in having implemented, or are implementing, the recommendations from those reviews. There is also an independent judge-led public inquiry which is investigating matters in the hospital in recent years.

“NHS staff in the QEUH and across Scotland continue to provide exceptional care to their patients and are currently doing so in the face of unprecedented pressures brought by the pandemic.

“We note that a number of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde clinicians have raised concerns about how the hospital is being portrayed and we welcome their commitment to delivering the best quality care to patients and their focus on what matters most to patients and their families.”

This story first appeared in our sister title, The Scotsman.