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NHS Hospitals Battling Plague of Vermin

NHS Hospitals Battling Plague of Vermin

NHS Hospitals in England Plagued By Infestations of Vermin

Shocking figures released last month reveal that 70% of Britons NHS hospitals are continually plagued by vermin. The figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and brought to public attention by the Conservative party, show that more than two thirds of NHS trusts brought in pest controllers at least 50 times over the last 2 years.

Almost 20,000 incidents of pest infestations were reported between January 2006 and March 2008. Infestations of rats, mice, cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs and other biting occurred in wards, clinics and even operating theaters across the country.

NHS Hospitals Battling Plague of Vermin

80% of NHS trusts reported problems with ants, 66% with rats, 77% with mice, 59% with cockroaches, 65% with fleas, 24% with bedbugs and a further 6% with maggots. Outbreaks included rats in maternity wards, wasps and fleas in neonatal units and maggots in patients’ slippers.

The Patients Association described the situation as revolting and said it threatened patient safety. The government said the risk to patients was “negligible” and played down fears that infestations of vermin were linked to the spread of hospital superbugs such as MRSA.

The shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, said:

“Labour have said over and over again that they will improve cleanliness in our hospitals but these figures clearly show that they are failing,
“It is difficult for health service estates to maintain a completely pest-free environment but the level and variety of these infections is concerning. We need greater transparency in NHS infection control, and publishing data like this is one way in which we can drive up overall hygiene standards.”

Vanessa Bourne, of the Patients Association, said:

“Such findings are truly revolting. How can patients be safe amid bed bugs, fleas and rats? Once again safety is just rhetoric and not a reality for patients, particularly the elderly and those with suppressed immunity.
“What about those trusts who ignored this freedom of information request and said nothing? If these are the standards of those coming clean, what does it say about those who stayed silent? These findings reveal what happens when money is taken away from where patients expect to see it spent. If these hospitals were restaurants they would be closed down and out of business. [NHS] trust boards must get a grip and show patients they are serious about their legal responsibility for safety.”

Hospitals like Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which had the highest number of pest incidents over the period, argued that the figures reflected the fact that it was the fourth-largest trust in the country.

John Simpson, the trust’s director of estates and facilities management, said it was not fair to compare its figures with those of smaller trusts, which were likely to have smaller-scale pest problems.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS trust, which had the third most incidents, said the figure clearly reflected how seriously staff regarded pest control. A spokeswoman for the Hospital said.

“Common calls in Portsmouth are to deal with ants or, being a coastal city, dead seagulls or pigeons in the grounds, the number of help-desk calls is not a reflection on cleanliness in our hospitals, more a recognition that we do not procrastinate with our response.”

Christine Braithwaite, the head of the healthcare associated infection programme at the Healthcare Commission, said concerns around pest control in hospitals “have, to date, been negligible”.

However Ivan Lewis, the health minister, said it was up to NHS trusts to ensure hospitals were clean and safe for patients. He said there was little evidence of any threat to patient safety.

“The use of pest control is seen as good, proactive management,” he said.

“The claim that insects spread hospital-acquired infections is entirely unproven. There is no evidence of their carriage of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being a hazard to patients. Despite this, we expect hospitals to take continued action to tackle these pest problems.”

Malcolm Padley, a spokesman for Rentokil, which provides pest control for hospitals, suggested that some pests could be brought in by patients,

“We have definitely seen an increase in the number of callouts about bed bugs and rodents nationally. A lot of people could be going into hospitals with bed bugs on their clothing.”

Nevertheless, the vast amount of infestations reported by NHS trusts over the past two years, work out to (on average) once a fortnight.

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