Patients put at risk with old surgical equipment

Concerns have been raised about out-of-date equipment being used on patients having keyhole surgery at Scottish hospitals.

Laparoscopic surgery, using cameras to guide surgeons, leaves smaller scars, is less painful and allows patients to recover quicker.

But an audit of services across the UK found that in some cases hospitals are not using the most up-to-date equipment, including units in Scotland.

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Overall, it said 28 per cent of the 474 UK hospitals who provided information were operating with obsolete, and in some cases potentially unsafe, equipment. These were graded as "bronze".

In Scotland three of the 16 hospitals who provided data to the audit received the bronze grade - Dr Gray's in Elgin, Belford Hospital in Fort William and Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban.

Mike Parker, from the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ALSGBI) which carried out the audit, said: "The bronze ones are those that are using equipment that might be outdated.

"If we have, for example, monitors which are over ten years old we think that is inappropriate and inadequate."

Eleven Scottish hospitals received the middle "silver" grade for their equipment in the audit. UK-wide, 61 per cent of hospitals were using "silver" standard equipment.

But even though both Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and St John's in Livingston were graded silver, concerns were raised about some of the equipment used.

Both hospitals were found to use sharp metal trocars - instruments inserted into the abdomen to allow access to other equipment.

The instruments can increase the risk of accidentally puncturing organs or spreading infection, the ALSGBI said and they recommend the use of blunt, disposable trocars.

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Across the UK, 19 per cent of hospitals were found to be using sharp metal trocars.

Tracey Gillies, clinical director of surgery at NHS Lothian, said they were not aware of any safety issues when metal trocars were used correctly.

She added: "The cost of transferring across to only disposable instruments would be completely prohibitive because of the sheer volume of operations carried out every year."

Overall, 11 per cent of UK units were awarded the highest "gold" standard in the audit, including Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital.

These hospitals were found to be using the most modern equipment, such as the latest high definition cameras to allow surgeons to see inside the body.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: "We are delighted to see ARI and RACH attaining Gold.

"We have a long established interest in laparoscopy and in advancing this minimally-invasive technique for the benefits of patients.