SAVE the Alex campaigners have slammed senior managers at the local health trust after 11 patients acquired infections after being treated in the hospital’s endoscopy unit.
The incidents, unearthed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) following a Freedom of Information request, began in March and occurred despite Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust knowing of the potential risks posed by ‘outdated equipment’ being used in an ‘unsafe environment’ which had been on their risk register ‘for a number of years’.
Endoscopes are fibre optic tubes put inside the body allowing doctors to carry out investigations and surgery.
The HSJ quoted the trust as saying in an internal report that it had not been able to address the situation because of delays to its controversial plans to reconfigure acute services across Worcestershire, including the Alex.
However Neal Stote, chairman of the Save the Alex campaign put the blame firmly at the feet of senior managers at the Trust.
“It’s a nonsense that they are blaming this on the reconfiguration plans,” he said.
“They’ve known about this for years and under the reconfiguration endoscopy services would still continue at the Alex, so there wouldn’t have been any change there anyway.”
He added that once again it would be the staff at the Alex and the hospital itself who would get the blame when it was lack of investment and senior management getting their priorities wrong who were really at fault.
The document obtained by the HSJ spoke of the environment at the unit being ‘outdated’, ‘unsafe’ and ‘unacceptable’.
In addition the decontamination area did not allow for good separation between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ instruments.
A spokesperson fot the Trust said: “Samples taken routinely at the time of endobronchial procedures on patients in the endoscopy unit at the Alexandra Hospital revealed the presence of bacteria.
“Following the initial results an investigation was undertaken whilst measures were put in place immediately to mitigate any potential risk to patients. These included additional disinfection and changes to operating procedures. As a result, the on-going sampling has confirmed that this problem has been resolved. No patients came to any harm.
“Separately, the washers and disinfectors in the unit are due for replacement, as they are planned to be replaced every eight years.”
They added that the trust was now working with external advisors to ensure their endoscopy unit complied with new higher quality standards which would require investment.
“However, in the meantime, all of our units continue to be compliant and safe.”