Taxpayers face £70m bill for Covid hospital that never treated virus patients

Scottish ministers have agreed to compensate concert and events venue for loss of earnings - despite ban on mass gatherings

Nicola Sturgeon at the NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow
Nicola Sturgeon at the NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow Credit: ANDREW MILLIGAN/PA

The costs of setting up and running Scotland’s coronavirus field hospital will exceed £67 million, despite it not yet treating a single Covid-19 patient.

The NHS Louisa Jordan, at Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus (SEC), will cost taxpayers around £38 million in infrastructure costs and decommissioning, SNP ministers have said.

There will be a further £29m bill in running costs, while negotiations are ongoing over a compensation bill for the operators of the facility for loss of earnings, even though mass gatherings are banned.

The lease has been extended until April 2021, despite the fact that the hospital has not yet been needed to treat a single coronavirus patient. The Scottish Government has insisted the cost of the facility, which was set up as NHS bosses feared an influx of virus patients would overwhelm the health service earlier this year, remained good value for money.

In a response to a written question at Holyrood, Jeane Freeman, the SNP Health Secretary, said: “It should be noted that negotiations with the SEC are ongoing in relation to potential loss of income, which are not included in the figures at this stage. 

“Costs for individual Nightingale hospitals in NHS England have not been published, but based on the total costs of the NHS England programme (£220 million), we are confident that NHS Louisa Jordan represents value for money and compares favourably to other hospitals of this type.

“We will continue to monitor monthly running costs with regards to the NHS Louisa Jordan’s role in the remobilisation of NHS services.”

At the hospital, there was initially capacity for 300 patients, although this could be expanded to 1036 beds. There have recently been trials that have seen around 400 patients receive orthopaedic and plastic surgery outpatient consultations at the hospital.

Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said: “The Scottish Government must ensure the NHS Louisa Jordan is used to its full potential and that public money is used responsibly. Compensation payments to the SEC must be transparent and justified.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The NHS Louisa Jordan has not been required to treat Covid-19 patients as we have been able to retain capacity in NHS Scotland thanks to continued collective effort to tackle this pandemic and it is now playing a vital part in NHS remobilisation plans.

“The SEC does not charge the NHS Louisa Jordan rental fees for the venue but will charge for any costs, such as heating and lighting, directly attributable to its use as a medical facility.

“The agreement with SEC included a clause allowing for loss of earnings which will be considered in due course.”