Soaring heat at maternity ward ‘intolerable’

Simpson's maternity unit at the ERI. Picture: TSPL
Simpson's maternity unit at the ERI. Picture: TSPL
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patients and staff are “sweltering in intolerable conditions” at the Royal Infirmary as temperatures on wards reach 30C.

Nurses say they are close to collapsing on one of the worst affected wards at the Simpsons’s maternity unit and new mums have been in left in tears as they struggle to cope with the soaring heat.

A ban on patients bringing their own plug-in electrical equipment has been lifted so that patients can bring in their own fans and water breaks every 45 minutes have been ordered for staff.

The problem has been blamed on a lack of air conditioning in the privately-built hospital and the fact windows are only allowed to open four inches as a safety feature of the £184million building.

An insider at the Simpson’s said: “The conditions staff are working in on the maternity ward are absolutely appalling – the heat is immense.

“Women are sitting on their beds crying with the heat, asking for fans and windows to be opened.”

Union bosses said staff were turning off lights in a bid to cool down rooms. Portable air conditioning units have been brought in and rules insisting all personal electrical equipment is tested before it is used in the hospital have been relaxed.

Unison sent a health and safety inspector around wards yesterday, following complaints. Spokesman Tom Waterson said he had raised the issue with Consort – the private firm which runs the hospital – on numerous occasions, which led to screens being put over windows.

But he said the measures were not enough.

He said: “It’s affecting every part of the hospital from the wards to the sterilising centre, theatres and kitchens.

“At least staff can move around. If you’re bedridden in heat like this, it’s really uncomfortable.”

High temperatures of up to 35C in the hospital sparked a Health and Safety Executive probe ten years ago which highlighted a catalogue of failures at the time including poor ventilation and access to drinking water.

MSP Jim Eadie, who is demanding a probe into the private finance initiative at the ERI which nets Consort £60m a year, said it was the latest in a “catalogue of failures.”

George Curley, director of facilities at NHS Lothian, insisted everything possible was being done, but admitted the sunny weather had made hospitals “very warm”.

He said: “We are providing extra fans and ward staff have an on-call number they can phone to receive extra resources if it gets too hot. Plenty of cold water is also being made available.

“Patients can bring in their own fans and we will test them as quickly as possible to ensure they meet safety standards.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com