Grandmother sent home from surgery because equipment not clean

A grandmother-of-four waiting on a hip replacement in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was sent home due to the necessary sterile equipment not being available.

Catherine Stewart waited for 5 hours only to be told that her op was cancelled because they'd run out of sterile equipment. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Kate Stewart was admitted on 19 July after spending 20 weeks in severe pain waiting on an operation she was told would be done within three months.

The 69-year-old, who worked as a receptionist with NHS Lothian for 16 years, arrived at 7am in the preparation ward having fasted the night before and was told just after 3pm that she had to go home as the hospital did not have clean equipment for her surgery.

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Mrs Stewart, from Edinburgh, said she felt angry and disappointed after receiving the news from her consultant who told her this kind of thing was “not an uncommon occurrence” at the flagship hospital.

She was initially told she was being put back on a six-week waiting list but after complaining and phoning for a cancellation every day Mrs Stewart finally received her replacement left hip last week and is currently recovering.

She said: “I felt angry, I felt disappointed for myself but angry for the surgeon and the theatre staff.

“I felt angry for the amount of money that was wasted to the NHS in resources and theatre time and the fact that they go on about the waiting lists getting longer – no wonder. It begs the question why was [sterile equipment] not available?

“My family were horrified, they found the situation unbelievable. The surgeon’s exact words to me were ‘this is not an uncommon occurrence’.”

A furious Mrs Stewart fired off a letter to Tim Davidson, chief executive of NHS Lothian. It was passed on to the the manager for the hospital sterilisation and decontamination unit to address.

Prof Alex McMahon, director of nursing, NHS Lothian said: “We know how stressful having an operation can be for patients and we understand that unplanned cancellations can be extremely frustrating. We take all patient complaints very seriously – we have received a complaint from Mrs Stewart and will investigate thoroughly.”

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “It is concerning to learn that a long-awaited operation was unable to take place due to the lack of sterile equipment. We know our Scottish NHS is under huge pressures and theatre space is at a premium but for operations to be cancelled due to the reported lack of sterile equipment and theatre management is unacceptable.”