Revealed: Thieves steal £800,000 worth of NHS property

Criminals targetting NHS properties made off with laptop computers, lead roofing and electrical equipment, as well as artificial Christmas trees, toasters, dentures and guitars.
Criminals targetting NHS properties made off with laptop computers, lead roofing and electrical equipment, as well as artificial Christmas trees, toasters, dentures and guitars.
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Thieves have stolen thousands of pounds worth of NHS property over the past five years, prompting concerns over security within Scottish hospitals. Figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday suggest that more than £812,000 worth of property has been stolen from NHS premises since 2010, including thefts from patients and staff.

The true total is believed to be much higher, as some health boards were unable to reveal the value of all the stolen items.

The biggest ticket items include laptops, lead roofing and electrical equipment, although thieves also made off with a bizarre array of goods ranging from artificial Christmas trees and toasters, to dentures, guitars and sanitary bins.

NHS Shetland, one of Scotland’s smallest health boards, had to replace 16 wheelchairs between 2012 and 2014 worth more than £2,000, while NHS uniforms worth £3,000 were taken from Lanarkshire hospitals.

Campaigners called for more robust security in hospitals to protect patients as well as NHS budgets.

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “At a time when our NHS is already facing huge pressures around resources and staffing, many people will be frustrated to see items totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds in value being stolen.

“Stealing from hospitals is a callous crime, especially when our health service is so stretched. SNP ministers must ensure there are robust security systems in place for our public buildings, including hospitals.”

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, suggested health bosses explore attaching alarms to medical equipment so they could be alerted if items were moved outside the hospitals.

She said: “Health boards are so complacent about it. Some patients don’t have a lot of money and it could be something really precious to them that is stolen.

“We need to take that seriously. I don’t think security is robust enough and I think more can be done.

“There’s very expensive machinery going missing as well. The health service cannot afford that.”

Health bosses moved to reassure patients that all electrical equipment is encrypted to prevent the theft of medical records for lost or stolen computers.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Health Boards are expected to have vigilant practices in place to prevent theft where possible.

“They are also expected to follow robust procedures in the event of thefts from facilities, which includes reporting incidents to Police Scotland.”