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Date: Friday 28 July 2006

Edinburgh Royal infirmary - Four years of overheating still not sorted

UNISON - Scotland's public service union - is considering balloting Edinburgh's flagship Royal Infirmary staff on Industrial Action if the major heat problems bedevilling the £1,000m PFI Hospital are not sorted out.

Despite the new building being one of the flagship PFI projects of the Scottish Government it has continually caused problems for staff and patients in the summer, when temperatures inside the buildings go through the roof. This is now the fourth summer that problems have been flagged up by the union, and staff are at the end of their tether.

Tom Waterson, UNISON's Lothian health branch Chair said "Despite UNISON having continually raised the problem with the Health Board, the private contractors who run the hospital, and recently even the Minister for Health, the heat seems to get unbearable every year. This is the fourth year in a row that hot weather has caused unacceptable conditions in this hospital and yet we are still expected to accept temporary solutions. Staff are fed up having to try and work in conditions that are uncomfortable, and in some cases could lead to accidents. So, unless we can get the people who run this hospital to accept their responsibility and introduce a proper solution we are going to have to consider what action we can take to demonstrate how serious the situation is."

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative, and is operated by private company Consort Healthcare. It will cost the NHS over £1,000m by the end of the contract, despite only costing Consort healthcare £184m to build The problem of the overheating has been reported in the press every summer since it opened.

Tom Waterson said "Staff have again been fainting in the wards and feeling nauseous. Although there are temporary airconditioning units and fans in some parts of the hospital - there are not sufficient to cover it all, and many of these have been temporary since 2003! The Health and Safety Executive has already given a damning report on this mess, and Consort make a lot of money from the public purse. Yet they seem unable to sort it out, despite sitting in air-conditioned offices themselves. Back in 2003 staff walked out for a 'coffee break, because they couldn't stand the temperatures any longer, it is now time to consider stronger action."


For Further Information Please Contact: Tom Waterson (Chair - Lothian Health Branch) 0775 362 7575 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729(m)