NHS patients at risk from vermin, says survey

Dated: By   

Pest controllers have been called in by NHS hospitals hundreds of times yearly to deal with vermin infestations which place patients at risk of infection.

medical mistakes

According to a survey of hospitals in England, pests such as rats, mice, ants, silverfish, cockroaches and fleas are a constant concern.

Incidents have been reported in all hospital areas, from intensive care wards and A&E departments to staff rooms and canteens. Cases highlighted include bedbug-infested wards, mice in a children's nursery, fleas and cockroaches in maternity units and rats in a palliative care ward.

Some hospitals have noted more unusual complaints, recording problems with birds, foxes and squirrels.

Prof Mark Enright, an infection control expert at AmpliPhi Biosciences, said such cases were "scandalous" and had no place in modern hospitals. "It points to a lack of general hygiene. Rats can carry infections such as Weil's disease, which can be passed on to healthcare workers and patients."

"If someone is in an intensive care or paediatric ward, they are more susceptible to infection."

The survey, whose details were obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, covered hundreds of pest-control call-outs between August and January, with information provided by more than 40 trusts. All hospitals have some type of contract with a pest-control firm, either for routine checks or for emergencies.

The survey's findings suggest that cleanliness remains a key challenge for many NHS hospitals. Although a national campaign has seen a reduction in cases of MRSA and C.difficile, other infections could be increasing.

Some weeks before the survey, a vulnerable 42-year-old patient claimed he was bitten on his back and neck by a rat while in bed at St Ebba's Hospital in Epsom, Surrey. According to staff, a field mouse was responsible for the attack.

Roger Goss, co-director of the campaign group Patient Concern, said the infestations are terrifying. "It shows that the rhetoric about patient safety being the number 1 priority is often little more than hollow words."

"You'd have thought this kind of problem would not be allowed to arise because cleaning systems are so continuous and efficient."

"But instead there is a question of priorities. If you've got targets to treat everyone in A&E within four hours, then this kind of thing is unglamorous by comparison and doesn't happen. There is no target to avoid rats in palliative care units, so it does not happen. The message to patients should simply be: steer clear of hospitals."

Useful Links


To find out how we could help you please make a no-obligation enquiry or call 0808 129 3320.


Get the news direct to your Email Inbox

If you liked this article you can sign up to receive our news articles via email here: Subscribe to our Daily News updates

PR Contact

For any PR enquiries please contact: Christina Savage at RTS Media on tel: 01942 396701, mobile: 07932 944 008 or send an email.

Categories


News Archive



Everyday Legal Insurance »

Key Contact

Neil Fearn - Medical Negligence Solicitor - Leeds

Neil Fearn
Partner, Head of Medical Negligence
T: 0844 858 3200
View profile

Get In Touch