Oh rats! NHS Lothian chiefs in pest emergency

Bugs and rodents have been found on Lothian medical facilities. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Bugs and rodents have been found on Lothian medical facilities. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Have your say

PEST control teams have been called out 540 times in less than three years to deal with infestations of creepy-crawlies and rodents in Lothian’s hospitals and health centres.

Figures released by NHS Lothian show that last year there were 219 pest control incidents at health board buildings – a rise of more than 35 per cent on 2010.

The total is on course to be similar this year, with 159 incidents already reported by the end of September.

Among the unpleasant discoveries made at the Sick Kids hospital were rodents in the parent accommodation room, a wasp infestation in casualty, flies in cardiology and ants in wards, while already this year rodents have been found in nursery areas on two occasions.

Other shock finds include wasps, rodents and flies in the kitchens at the Western General Hospital, cockroaches in the nurses offices at the Howden sexual health centre by St John’s Hospital and rodents in a blood transfusion room.

Dead animals had to be removed on two occasions while silverfish bugs were discovered 12 times. Other creatures dealt with by NHS Lothian staff or external contractors included garden ants and bees.

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said: “This is an astonishing catalogue of rodent and insect infestations. I’ve previously raised concerns about the need for higher standards of cleanliness. Given the dangers of infection, this exposé needs to act as a wake-up call across NHS Lothian.”

The figures are likely to lead to further concerns about the condition of NHS Lothian’s properties, after it emerged that £191 million is needed to bring its buildings up to standard, with more than £16m of work needed for internal fabric of nine hospitals and almost £4.5m required for their external fabric.

Ms Boyack added: “We’ve clearly got an issue of ageing premises and a massive backlog of repairs. Patients and staff deserve better. This year alone there’s a worrying series of infestations in the Sick Kids, the Western General and the Royal Edinburgh. I’ll be raising this issue directly with the Health Minister.”

Of the pest control incidents since 2010, 92 were reported at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, which is in need of £6.9m worth of work on internal and external fabric.

There were 28 incidents at the Sick Kids, which health bosses have admitted is no longer fit for purpose, while at Roodlands General Hospital in East Lothian, where almost £300,000 of spending is needed for internal and external fabric, pest control teams were called out on 54 occasions.

George Curley, NHS Lothian’s director of operations, said “robust” systems existed across Lothian’s 300 properties to prevent problems with pests.

He added: “Given the number of properties and the fact that many of these are either in rural areas or have extensive grounds or woodland close by, problems do arise.

“Any organisation with green spaces has to manage the potential consequences of providing these much-valued therapeutic spaces, which are extremely popular with patients.”