Health secretary issues apology over child deaths in local hospital

Jeane Freeman expressed her “deepest sympathies” to the families of Milly Main, 10 and three-year-old Mason Djemat.

The two children died three weeks apart in August 2017 at the hospital, which is part of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus.

They had been treated on a ward which was affected by water contamination

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton cited the public interest around the hospital and the high profile scrutiny it has received.

Mr Cole-Hamilton says an internal clinician led review had taken place that even the cabinet secretary was not aware of.

“Does she now understand why the information gathered by this review was subsequently withheld?”

Ms Freeman replied: “I don’t understand that.” She explained the clinician led review was not advised to government by the board.

She said the government was now looking at that review conducted in 2017 and if it is unhappy or dissatisfied with any of that it will take the action required.

The minister also hoped to speak to the clinicians about any obstacles they faced in carrying out the review.


Green MSP Alison Johnstone says lessons will not be learned if staff do not feel confidence that issues they raise will be dealt with.

What steps are being taken to improve the culture of openness within the NHS, she asked.

Ms Freeman agreed that staff must feel confident and safe to raise issues and she pointed to ongoing engagement with those who work on the wards at the hospital.

She went on to highlight other steps being taken to promote whistle-blowing, including:

  • the creation of the independent National Whistle-blowing Officer, supported by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
  • appointing whistle-blowing champions by the end of the year
  • the short-life working group looking at steps which need to be taken

“Milly Main’s mum deserves the truth about her daughter’s death, as does Victoria Freeman, whose son Mason also died unexpectedly at the hospital in 2017.”

Many other families do fear a cover up, added Ms Lennon, saying the Minister’s statement was underwhelming, with a passing mention of escalation being weak.

She asked the cabinet secretary if she has complete confidence in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“Where is the empathy and compassion for these families,” she asked.

Ms Freeman refuted that she is careless or irresponsible on these matters.

“Families do deserve answers and that is why I met them and appointed Professor White, “she insists.

The health secretary explains he [Professor White] provided detailed answers to 71 questions from the family.

My reference to escalation is not weak, she insisted – “I will not be rushed into wrong decisions simply to satisfy members of this chamber.”


Miles Briggs (left) with local Tory List MSP Maurice Corry.

Tory MSP Miles Briggs said this statement would do little to answer the questions of families –  “They believe there has been a cover up and we need to get answers.”

Had all families been contacted and provided with the duty of care they need, he asked.

Mr Briggs also asks about the guidance and protocols put in place after infections were discovered and what sight ministers had of this.

Ms Freeman said all families in contact with her or Professor White had been contacted, while the chair and chief executive, John Brown and Jane Grant, of the board had written to all families whose children had been treated and offered to meet them.


Health Board chair John Brown and Chief Executive Jane Grant.

Regarding water infection work, the health secretary said the board undertook a number of mitigation measures to find the source and prevent the spread of infection.

The health board decided that surveillance between January and September 2018 did not provide confidence that the source was found, which was why the ward was closed.

During this time, work was taken to upgrade the wards she added.

Ms Freeman says this statement was not designed to answer the specific questions of families because they will all have different questions.

Public inquiry 

The minister refers to the statutory public inquiry into these issues and she says she hopes to confirm the chair by the end of the year.

In the meantime the independent review would continue, she said.

The minister claimed to be acutely aware that the families of children receiving care need complete confidence in the hospital.

The minister explained she met with concerned families last month and the communication from the board to these families had simply not been good enough.

She said that is why she appointed Professor Craig White to ensure the questions they had were clearly answered.

On the contentious issue of whistle-blowers, against whom it is generally accepted a large number of  public service officials are antipathetic,  Ms Freeman said she takes concerns raised by a whistleblower seriously  – “and there is no room in our health service for anyone to criticise whistle-blowers publicly or otherwise.”

She added: “When things go wrong I expect boards to respond professionally, transparently and speedily. “cancer patients.

Ms Freeman said it would be inappropriate for her to comment on any further cases currently subject to investigation by the Crown Office.

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