NHS pays £70k compensation for lost possessions

Compensation has been paid for the loss of items such as shoes, jewellery, mobile phones, dentures, hearing aids and glasses by NHS Lothian. Picture: Tony Marsh

MIRACLES are performed on a daily basis in the Capital’s hospitals, whether it’s organ transplants, groundbreaking surgery or using wonder drugs to save lives.

But it appears NHS staff also have a less impressive trick up their sleeves – making things disappear.

New figures have revealed the loss of hundreds of patients’ belongings in recent years has left the health service with a bill of more than £70,000.

The compensation payments, for mislaid items, including 37 sets of dentures, 42 pairs of glasses and 88 items of clothing, saw an average of £248 paid out to every patient with a successful claim in the last three years.

It is understood that health bosses pay out £30 for a single lost iPhone charger, with replacements available online for as little as £4. The revelations have led to fears that valuable NHS resources are being frittered away.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients Association, said the waste was “totally unacceptable”.

“This is £70,000 that should have been in the NHS budget to help make ends meet,” she said. “It’s really negligence. Patients going into hospital don’t expect to have their hearing aids, dentures or anything else lost and the money it has cost could have paid for a doctor, or a couple of extra staff.

“I think they need to be speaking to the cleaners and need to be much more vigilant in what they’re throwing out. Many of these things can’t be replaced overnight – and if they lose your teeth it’s going to affect eating. They need to tell staff to check it out before they chuck it out.”

Last year, no more than five items were lost at Ferryfield House, yet NHS Lothian was left with a bill of £1400.

At the Royal Infirmary, the health board has paid out for 120 items since 2011, costing more than £30,000 – more than enough to pay a nurse’s salary for a full year.

At the city’s Western General Hospital, 47 possessions disappeared into the ether, leading to pay-outs of £15,000.

Conservative MSP and his party’s health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw, said that while it was understandable things would go missing in an organisation of NHS Lothian’s size, care should be taken to protect the health board’s budget.

He added: “In these tricky financial times, it’s important staff, patients and visitors are more careful and vigilant, because this is a tab the health board can ill afford to continue picking up.”

A total of 116 items were lost leading to claims in 2011 across NHS Lothian sites, leaving a dent in the coffers to the tune of £35,000. Although the bill reduced to £14,000 in 2012 after 90 items went missing, it spiralled to more than £20,500 last year despite fewer possessions – 78 – being lost.

In addition to clothing, dentures and glasses, patients have won compensation after items of jewellery, cash, shoes and mobile phones disappeared.

Sarah Ballard-Smith, NHS Lothian’s nurse director, described instances of lost property as “unfortunate” and said the issue was taken seriously.

She added: “We use a variety of written booklets, posters and signs to remind patients to leave valuables at home and only bring a small amount of money into hospital to cover day-to-day needs.

“We record all incidents and our staff do their best to help find any missing items.”

daniel.sanderson@edinburghnews.com

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