THE casualty department at the ERI was left with only one security guard on patrol on busy weekend shifts without medical staff being informed, it has emerged.
The private company that runs the hospital has been slammed by both NHS Lothian, for failing to follow procedure, and Unison, which says staff and patients could have been put at risk.
Consort admits that only one security guard was on patrol in the evenings between February 2 and 4, but said it had met all its contractual obligations.
The row blew up shortly after the Evening News revealed that Consort had failed to inform the NHS that smoke alarms at the hospital had been broken for more than a week.
In the evenings, A&E is usually staffed by one security guard in the control room, with at least two on foot patrol.
But after one security guard was unable to come to work because of a family emergency, only one guard was on patrol on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Chief operating officer for NHS Lothian Jackie Sansbury said: “We reiterate our disappointment with Consort in failing to properly adhere to our contract with them.
“We are urgently reviewing their processes in regards to why the proper procedures weren’t followed and are in discussions about what sanctions to take following this latest incident.
“Our main priority is the safety of our patients and staff and it is concerning to see any incidents of this nature.”
Grace Forrest, lead Unison steward at the ERI, said Consort had failed to tell union reps about the shortage.
She said: “I think on the Friday and Saturday night I’d be concerned to have only one man on patrol here.
“If a security man phones in sick, we understand that, but just tell us, so we can tell staff that if there was an incident, they should call the police straight away.
“The message we’re trying to get across to [Consort’s parent company] Balfour Beatty is that systems can break down, we accept that, what we don’t accept is that they don’t tell the staff in the areas affected.”
However, Consort regional director Stephen Gordon denied that the company had been in breach of its contract.
“There was proper communication to the contract manager that the security officer was going to be away,” he said.
“Normally there would be three people on and quite often there are more, but of an evening when the hospital is essentially locked down other than A&E, there are usually three people on.
“We have checked on the three nights in question, and as usual there were a number of incidents, and they were all responded to in appropriate timescales and with appropriate responses, so there was no disruption to the service.”