Sterile debate

PUBLISHED: 11:11 30 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:17 06 May 2010

Regarding my recent experiences with non-sterile operating trays from Lister, could I bring your readers up to date with events. Nine months in existence, Lister Sterile Unit does not function 100 per cent perfectly, and so about 10 people a week are nee

Regarding my recent experiences with non-sterile operating trays from Lister, could I bring your readers up to date with events.

Nine months in existence, Lister Sterile Unit does not function 100 per cent perfectly, and so about 10 people a week are needlessly sent home because of faulty or unavailable instruments

This is a totally unacceptable situation, and the Chief Executive of the East & North Herts NHS Trust, Nick Carver, and the head of the sterile unit, David Govan, must be more accountable for putting it right. About £2.8m is wasted by our NHS Trust through missed appointments.

I wanted to find out a bit more about this Unit. I felt that I had every right, under the circumstances, to visit it, but was told by the chief executive that that was inappropriate. Why? I then sent a set of questions to the two gentlemen and requested an interview to hear their answers. They were not satisfactory.

In a nutshell this is what I was told. From the end of July to mid-November this year, a total of 16 weeks, 387 trays were unacceptable for use. From the beginning of February to mid-November, 42 weeks in total, 406 patients were sent home due to faulty trays. Some reasons: Two washing tunnels constantly jam. The tracing/tracking system needs updating. Some instruments are complicated and need updating because they do not get properly cleaned. Members of staff are poorly paid and need more training. They are under time and volume pressure, trays which are the wrong shape and dependant for outer protection on bubble wrap. Why? The Executive agrees that had the QEII's own Sterilisation Unit not been closed in February at least these latter problems would have been avoided.

The executive states that a certain number of trays will always leave the unit in an unacceptable state and that the subsequent 1 per cent failure rate to perform operations is acceptable. Why? The number of non-sterile trays should be zero and failure rate should be zero. Lister is expecting to privately out-source the sterilising facility in about two years time when apparently they will have £900,000 to spend on new instruments. It does not take much to realise that in the meantime, the executive is reluctant to spend any money on the present deplorable system.

Why is it that, as tax-payers and potential patients, we cannot have more say in the quality control of this basic sterilising service? Should not the Public Health Authority step in when such an important issue is involved?

SUE HOGG, Wilbury Rd, Letchworth

* I agree with correspondence in The Comet regarding retaining The Lister Hospital, the question I need to ask is the kind of services which will be retained and improved. With the new Hatfield Hospital now abandoned, where will the cancer unit and other specialised facilities be housed? I have asked for leaflets to be printed so our local community can be given information on the present and future of the Lister, these will be available in the near future.

CONNIE REES, Sish Lane, Stevenage

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