Hip surgery cancelled over lack of sterile equipment

Kate Stewart had waited 20 weeks in severe pain for her operation. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Kate Stewart had waited 20 weeks in severe pain for her operation. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A GRAN-OF-FOUR waiting for a hip replacement in the Royal Infirmary was sent home just before going into surgery because there was no sterile equipment available.

Kate Stewart, from Craigmount, was admitted on July 19 after spending 20 weeks in severe pain waiting for an operation she was originally 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.

Kate 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. An investigation into the incident is now under way.

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

Kate 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?

“Was it lack of staff in the sterilising unit or is it lack of equipment? – that I don’t know. 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 Kate fired off a letter to Tim Davidson, chief executive of NHS Lothian and Health Secretary Shona Robison.It was passed on to the manager for the Hospital Sterilisation and Decontamination Unit to address.

Professor 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 that our Scottish NHS is under huge pressures and that 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..”

Scottish Labour’s Daniel Johnson MSP said: “The way this grandmother has been treated is outrageous. For an operation to reportedly be cancelled because the hospital doesn’t have sterile equipment in 2017 is astounding.”