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Hospitals hit by 'despicable' thefts

A REINFORCED bed for obese patients was just one of a "staggering" number of items lost or stolen from Scottish hospitals in the last five years.

Baby monitors and ­defibrillators were among the other expensive, life-saving items to disappear from wards.

Many of the thefts and losses affected maternity units and included special scales for weighing babies and even a machine for assessing jaundice.

Of the boards that provided information, NHS Lothian appeared to be the worst-hit with equipment worth £220,000 lost or stolen since 2013.

In one case, a thief stole a Nintendo Wii Fit console from Edinburgh's Leith Community Treatment Centre.

The Scottish Conservatives branded the thefts and losses "despicable". Patient groups are calling on health boards to use supermarket-style security tags.

NHS Tayside staff admitted it had "lost" a specialist bariatric bed for obese patients at the former Sunnyside Royal Hospital in 2011. The beds can cost in the region of £7000.

The same health board also reported losses of a drip stand, a bilimeter machine - which tests the level of jaundice in newborns - and even a rectal probe.

NHS Lanarkshire reported the loss of three expensive pieces of equipment including a £2280 defibrillator, a £1800 blood glucose level monitor and a £1100 flow meter with suction units.

Lothian's losses included a ­clinical camera from a dental ­institute and scales stolen from an employee's car in 2013.

Pagers, hearing aids and shoes were lost within the NHS Orkney health board over the timescale.

NHS Grampian reported a theft of sterilising equipment costing up to £5000 to replace in February 2013.

Forth Park Hospital in ­Kirkcaldy, Fife lost a baby heart monitor in 2010/2011 worth £744.94.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde was one of a number of health boards that said they had not had a single loss or theft of medical equipment in five years.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "It's fairly staggering to think items of such bulk and significance have simply slipped through the net. Given taxpayers' money is at stake here, the NHS really has to be more careful at times. However, staff do not have time to be security guards as well as health professionals."

He added that it was up to ­hospitals to put in "strong security arrangements".

Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said: "Your local Boots, Tesco and clothes stores all have tags and monitors, so why should our hospitals be any different?

"It's simply unacceptable that so many items are either being lost or stolen at a cost to the health board and taxpayer. This money could be spent elsewhere on other vital services."

George Curley, Director of Operations at NHS Lothian, said it takes issues of security seriously. "We are concerned and disappointed when any items are stolen," he added. "We have a robust range of precautions in place to guard against theft and we regularly work with police to safeguard our resources. We also remind staff to be vigilant and patients and visitors to be careful with their possessions and to report incidents.

"All electrical equipment, including memory sticks, is encrypted, to ensure that any patient identifiable data is safe and not accessible."

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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