Patient waits for heart monitor as devices not being returned

Stephen Elphick. Picture: Toby Williams
Stephen Elphick. Picture: Toby Williams
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A PATIENT with a heart condition has been denied a vital monitor because too many of the devices haven’t been returned by patients.

Dr Stephen Elphick, a retired research scientist from Livingston, arrived at the Western General Hospital yesterday to be fitted with a holter monitor, which is worn constantly over a set period of time and records a patient’s heartbeat.

But he was then told he would have to wait until at least October because so many have been given out and not brought back that there are no longer enough to go around.

NHS Lothian admitted that patients who kept medical equipment were causing a significant problem, with the heart monitors, which cost £2500 each, among a number of items which were routinely not returned.

Dr Elphick, 66, has an irregular heartbeat which is not life-threatening, but doctors wanted to fit the monitor to keep track of his progress.

While monitors at the Western remain available for more serious cases, he raised concerns that unknown but life-threatening heart conditions could go undetected because of the equipment shortage.

He said: “I was just told they couldn’t fit anything because they had trouble getting the equipment returned. These devices are very important for quite a large number of patients. I’m lucky because I just have an annoying problem, but other people have life-threatening conditions that are waiting to be diagnosed.

“I’m extremely happy with the Western and their service, but if someone takes something and doesn’t return it that’s theft.

“If there is no mechanism at all for recovering these devices, and others, then that must be the fault of someone on the health board, or the police. But because of this it’s the staff on the ground and the patients who are having to suffer.”

The monitors must be returned to the hospital to have results taken and analysed, meaning that people who keep the holters are also putting their own health at risk.

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “Patients are supplied with equipment on the understanding that they will return it when it is no longer required. They can drop it off or alternatively there is the option to post it back to us.

“We do everything within our powers to contact patients who have not returned equipment, including by letter, telephone and through their GP. Unfortunately, there are still too many occasions when equipment is not returned.

“Patients are treated on an individual case-by-case basis and people requiring the urgent use of equipment will receive it.

“I would urge anyone with unused equipment to please return it as soon as possible.”