The mother of a 10-year-old cancer patient who died after contracting an infection at Scotland’s flagship children’s hospital has criticised health chiefs for their lack of remorse.
Kimberly Darroch, whose daughter Milly Main died while her leukaemia was in remission, praised the whistleblower who revealed how contaminated water at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow had been linked to 26 infections in 2017 – the year Milly died.
But she criticised NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for its response to the tragedy after the health board wrote to parents blaming media coverage for causing distress.
Labour MSP Anas Sarwar also accused the board of insulting parents by only apologising for “any anxiety” caused by the reports of the scandal.
Yesterday Ms Darroch told the Sunday Post she had been upset by a statement from the health board saying the whistleblower had caused “additional distress to families”.
The 35-year-old carer from Lanark said: “I want to thank the whistleblower for coming forward and hope to meet them face-to-face one day to say thank you in person.
“The bullying and intimidation from the health board has to stop and they need to show genuine remorse rather than the insulting statements they have been putting out.”
Milly was preparing to leave the Royal Hospital for Children at the QUEH site when she contracted an infection in her Hickman line, used to deliver chemotherapy, and then developed septic shock.
One of the causes of death was listed as multi-organ failure, possibly due to a Stenotrophomonas infection of the Hickman line.
But Milly’s family were unaware of an unpublicised clinician-led review that identified infections in 26 children, including one death, linked to contaminated water at the £842 million hospital.
The scandal only came to light this week when the whistleblower went public with details of the review and Ms Darroch realised Milly was the child who had died.
The revelations prompted NHSGCC to write to parents of children treated for cancer at the hospital to apologise for the issue having been made public.
In the letter seen by the Sunday Post, Kevin Hill, director of the women and children’s directorate at NHSGGC, said: “I am sorry for any anxiety that will have undoubtedly been caused by this latest coverage.”
Mhairi Kyle, a mum from Crianlarich, Perthshire, received the letter and has now written to the health board to demand answers.
Her five-year-old son Callum developed infections last December during treatment for leukaemia at the children’s hospital.
She said: “I will always be grateful for the dedication of the doctors and nurses who worked to save our son but distraught there was a conspiracy of lies and deceit going on in the background.
“We gave them the benefit of the doubt and yet they continue to blame the whistleblower. Surely, it is not too much to ask for honesty.”
Yesterday Mr Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow, said: “This letter is an insult to parents. It is sickening that the health board has only apologised for a public scandal coming to light, rather than the human tragedy at the heart of this.”
Mr Sarwar also called on the Scottish Government to act over the health board’s attempts to silence staff.
He said: “The Government must now step in and put the health board into special measures so that ministers take control, staff can speak out in confidence they will not lose their jobs, and – most importantly – parents can learn the truth.
“NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is not fit for purpose.”
The Scottish Conservatives called on Health Secretary Jeane Freeman to apologise and resign over the case.
Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “The Health Secretary must apologise to the family and resign or, if she refuses, be sacked.”
The health board apologised last night over the upset caused by the letter, but said it was important to reassure parents the water supply is safe. A spokeswoman said: “We truly are sorry this situation has occurred and are committed to ensuring we communicate with families affected by it and answer their questions. The sole purpose of our communications is to tell the facts.
“The truth is there is no way to know whether Milly’s infection was linked to the water supply as we did not consider this to be the source at the time and we did not test for the infection in the water supply.
“We are committed to providing patients and families with information and ensuring they get answers to the questions they have.”
A public inquiry is due to examine concerns raised about the QUEH and the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh.
Ms Freeman said she had told Milly’s mum that the inquiry would provide answers for families.
The Health Secretary was made aware of Milly’s death when Ms Darroch emailed her in September, and wrote last month to express her condolences.
She said: “I also advised them I was ensuring senior staff from NHSGGC would make personal contact with them to address questions they would have.
“I have been assured that communication has been established.
“I also made clear to the parent my intention that the public inquiry will be an opportunity for the voices of families to be heard and for answers to be provided.”