‘Lives at risk’ as Raigmore Hospital in Inverness fails basic hygiene

A SCOTTISH hospital is “putting patients’ lives at risk” after inspectors found it was failing to meet basic hygiene standards, an MSP has warned.

A SCOTTISH hospital is “putting patients’ lives at risk” after inspectors found it was failing to meet basic hygiene standards, an MSP has warned.

Inspectors found dirty toilets, poor management of bed linen and sharp objects and poor hand hygiene among staff at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

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The Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) team found that more than half of portable toilet facilities on wards were contaminated or stained.

They also came across “stained and splattered” patient monitoring equipment and bedside drip stands and highlighted an inadequate level of staffing on some wards, it has been reported.

The findings, leaked ahead of the report’s publication next month, come just months after three serious superbug outbreaks on wards at the hospital. Campaigners have called on managers at the Highland hospital to be disciplined for the failures discovered during an unannounced visit by inspectors last month.

Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon said: “Putting patients’ lives at risk by failing to comply with infection-control standards should now be a disciplinary offence in the NHS. Patients need to know they will be treated in a non-infectious, clean environment.”

Six out of 16 patients and visitors interviewed by the inspection team raised concerns about the lack of toilet facilities and the cleanliness of toilets across the hospital. The HEI team also found clinical gloves and disposable aprons being thrown in domestic-waste bags at a number of locations across the site.

Inspectors also highlighted how they saw staff fail to properly wash their hands and saw others breach health and safety rules by wearing inappropriate jewellery and clothing and failing to tie back long hair.

Margaret Watt, chair of Scotland Patients Association, said: “It’s unbelievable this is happening when there’s so much hype about cross-infection. I blame the people at the top. They’re the ones who should be making sure standards are being met and, if this is the best they can do, then we don’t need them. Heads should roll. This would never have happened in the old days when there were matrons in hospitals. They always made sure everything was spot on.”

The inspection came just six months after two wards at Raigmore were closed after eight patients were diagnosed with the hospital-acquired injection Clostridium difficile. An internal NHS Highland review into the cases highlighted poor cleaning, inadequate staffing and unfit toilets as contributory factors.

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There was a second serious outbreak of the same bug at the hospital in March and in May three wards were closed due to norovirus – commonly known as the winter vomiting bug.

And in June, the intensive therapy unit (ITU) was closed at Raigmore for three days following the discovery of pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria traced to the sinks in the ITU. The health board replaced these basins and began examining other wash facilities in other high-risk areas of the hospital.

Bacteria expert Professor Hugh Pennington said it was vital all health staff abided by strict hand hygiene regulations to improve infection control.

He said: “We are not talking about hi-tech medicine here. This is standard housekeeping which should not have any problems associated with it.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland: “We are already working on findings from the draft HEI report and any new issues identified are being addressed.”

The Scottish Government has invested £50 million to reduce hospital acquired infections - including spending more than a £1 million on a campaign highlighting the importance of hand washing.