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Lack of sterile equipment

30th January 2007

27042006_operating_room.jpgAn increasing number of operations are being cancelled because of shortages in sterile surgical instruments.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show 1,765 operations were cancelled last year, compared to 1,252 in 2002/3 – a rise of 40%.

It came as shortages led to cancellations at hospitals in the Lothians, which have been blamed on high levels of staff sickness at the Hospital Sterilisation and Disinfection Unit (HSDU).

Bosses said unclean instruments did not cause the cancellations, but that it was rather due to manpower shortages to make up the surgical trays, a complex procedure carefully governed by European Union regulations.

Nine operations were cancelled at St John's Hospital in Livingston, along with one at Edinburgh's Western General Hospital. More cancellations were prevented thanks to efforts from staff in other parts of Scotland to provide the surgical trays.

Scottish National Party health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon now plans to question parliament about the scale of the issue.

The government said the number of last minute cancellations of operations was dropping, with figures now at their lowest since 1999.

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