The widow of Nicola Sturgeon’s former spokesman has demanded the First Minister act now to prevent hospital infection deaths after accusing Glasgow’s health board of a cover-up.
Father-of-five Andrew Slorance died after six weeks at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) last year, having contracted coronavirus while being treated for cancer.
The former head of the Scottish Government’s response and communication unit had also been infected by a potentially deadly fungus caused by a type of mould; a fact only discovered by his wife after the 49-year-old’s death when she received his medical notes.
Mr Slorance’s cause of death was recorded as Covid pneumonia, although he had been treated for the infection caused by a fungus called aspergillus, which his widow claims was not discussed with either of them during his hospital stay.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde insisted it had been “open and honest with the family about the treatment provided” and denied accusations of a cover-up.
But Louise Slorance has now said she does not believe the health board’s claim it was honest and transparent, arguing it has been “selective in the information they provide”.
She also warned that similar incidents could occur again unless immediate action is taken, calling for the First Minister to intervene.
Ms Slorance said: “We have lost Andrew forever, but we need to prevent what happened to him happening to others.
“Every minute the First Minister waits to take action on the QEUH risks more families having to endure what we, and many other families, have gone through.
“Action needs to be taken now.
“I do not accept the responses given yesterday and nor do I accept the claims from the health board that they were honest with us.
“To date I have received three batches of medical notes over a 10-month period, and I still have no information as to why Andrew was moved from preventative anti-fungal treatment to active treatment in mid-November.
“The health board claim they have been open and honest.
“Was it open and honest to have told me while my husband was dying that there was ‘potential for additional infection’ when the medical notes I only saw after Andrew’s death revealed that tests had confirmed aspergillus three days before this, and that treatment had had to be escalated?
“This is not transparency, this is not honesty, and it will not stop these type of events happening in the future.
“As has become clear to me since Andrew’s death, the health board are selective in the information they provide.
“I ask that all information shared with the Scottish Government regarding Andrew’s case is shared immediately with myself, including the aspergillus case review which – despite requests – is yet to be shared with me.”
Ms Slorance’s remarks followed an exchange at First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) in which Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar challenged Ms Sturgeon about a culture of “secrecy and denial” at Glasgow’s flagship QEUH.
Ms Sturgeon said government officials were in touch with bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde after Ms Slorance claimed staff there “never mentioned” her husband had contracted an infection linked to mould.
Mr Sarwar, meanwhile, hit out over the “worst scandal of the devolution era”.
Ms Sturgeon said there was already a public inquiry “so that the concerns that have been raised are properly investigated”.
Speaking at FMQs, she pledged: “We will do everything possible to ensure that Andrew’s family get the answers that they are seeking and also consider very carefully whether the concerns that have been raised by Louise Slorance raise wider issues that require to be addressed.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “I will not and this government will not tolerate cover-ups or secrecy on the part of any health board and where there are concerns about that we will address those concerns.”
She pointed out a public inquiry is currently examining issues at the QEUH, describing that as a sign of the government’s “determination to ensure any issues raised are properly investigated and the answers are forthcoming”.
But Mr Sarwar replied: “Why, despite everything that has happened, do we still have a culture of cover-up, secrecy and denial with families being forced to take on the system to get the truth?”
He continued: “This is the worst scandal of the devolution era and in any other country in the world there would be resignations and sackings, but under this government it is denial and cover-up.”
Following Ms Slorance’s latest comments, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said she and other campaigners had “shown real bravery”.
Ms Baillie added: “The very least the First Minister could do is take action to make sure the ongoing risk is dealt with and future patients are spared their torment.
“These failings happened on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch.
“She was health secretary when the hospital was commissioned and built and she was First Minister when it was opened.
“She cannot hide behind the process of a public inquiry to avoid taking action now to make this hospital safe.
“To honour the work of people like Louise she must rebuild trust in the wake of a culture of cover-up, secrecy and denial.
“A good place to begin that work would be to finally demand the resignation of the leadership at Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board.”
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