Brain surgeries are being postponed at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh for a week after it emerged that a small number of patients in the department contracted a bacterial infection.
NHS Lothian described the move to halt elective procedures at the department of clinical neurosciences as a “precautionary” measure to ensure patient safety while tests are carried out.
Around 30 operations have been postponed after a number of patients – believed to be less than five – in one ward had been infected by the bacteria Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. The cases, which are not linked, continue to be treated and the patients are being monitored very closely, a spokeswoman for NHS Lothian said.
The bacterium is found widely in the environment, including in soil and ground water, and thrives in wet places such as sinks, drains, taps and showers.
Professor Alex McMahon, nurse director at NHS Lothian, said that all patients affected have been contacted and that new appointments would be arranged.
He said: “A multidisciplinary Incident Management Team was immediately established and the decision was taken at its most recent meeting on Tuesday to continue the suspension of procedures until more results were returned.
“We are sincerely sorry to patients and their families for the inconvenience and disruption this will cause.
“This is a purely precautionary decision, and it may prove to have been unnecessary when all of the results are returned, but patient safety must be the priority.”
He added: “We have contacted all of the affected patients directly and will provide a new appointment for each of them as quickly as possible.
“In the meantime, all necessary control measures are in place and the situation will continue to be monitored closely.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Patients and their families are being kept up to date and the board will ensure that they have the opportunity to discuss any remaining concerns.”
It comes after the deaths of two premature babies who contracted the staphylococcus aureus bacterium at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow, in January.
A month earlier, a ten-year-old boy and an adult died after becoming infected with cryptococcus, an infection related to pigeon droppings, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
Two senior NHS staff have since been appointed to lead an inquiry into the design, building and maintenance at Scotland’s largest hospital.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced that Dr Brian Montgomery, former medical director and interim chief executive of NHS Fife, and Dr Andrew Fraser, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, will jointly lead the work.