Hygiene alert at Ipswich Hospital

A SAFETY scare emerged at Ipswich Hospital today after it was revealed sterilisation equipment in key departments had been condemned and taken out of service by an independent inspection.

THERE was a safety scare at Ipswich Hospital today after it emerged sterilisation equipment in key departments had been condemned and taken out of service by an independent inspection.

Four small sterilisation systems in the Ear Nose and Throat Department, Oral Surgery, Critical Care Unit and South Theatres have been removed following advice from the independent health watchdog, the Healthcare Commission.

Hospital chiefs this morning set up a helpline number for any patients who may be concerned about the development.

The systems were used to sterilise equipment after they had been thoroughly hand-washed by experienced staff, say hospital bosses.

They were used to sterilise less than 5% of all the instrumentation used in the hospital.

Peter Donaldson, medical director, said: "We have removed all four sterilisation systems from the departments and they will not be used again.

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“No problems have ever been identified to us because of the systems but we understand the importance of making sure that we adhere to the highest standards of infection control.

"Staff in all the areas which previously used the sterilisation systems are highly professional. The removal of the systems is complying with the latest best practice.”

He added: "I hope that this will not give rise to any anxiety but we appreciate that our community may have concerns and I would like to take this opportunity to reassure them. A dedicated helpline has been set up for people to get in contact with us on 01473 703246.”

The Healthcare Commission made an unannounced visit to the hospital as part of a nationwide programme.

The hospital had already made plans to withdraw all four units by the end of March this year, but brought forward its plans in the light of the advice from the Healthcare Commission.

The hospital said latest guidance showed that a fully “automated” process of washing and sterilisation should be used to eliminate any possibility of the risk of infection from the cleaning process.