Plans to move decontamination services for surgical instruments away from hospitals and into regional centres could lead to operations being cancelled, theatre nurses have warned.
The Association for Perioperative Practice, which incorporates the National Association of Theatre Nurses, raised concerns last month with chief nursing officer for England Chris Beasley about the government’s national decontamination strategy.
The association has also discussed the matter with the National Audit Office.
Diane Gilmour, AfPP decontamination lead, said there had been ‘teething problems’ at two ‘super centres’ that opened in Bradford and Birmingham last year.
‘There have been issues with timeliness of supplies and wrong instruments,’ she said.
The AfPP will this month begin to collect information to find whether any operations have been cancelled as a result of the problems.
In the meantime, unions have called for the suspension of plans to hand over decontamination to two regional centres by a consortium of hospitals in Dorset, Somerset and Devon.
Because there are up to 60 miles between hospitals and the centres in Poole and Taunton, surgical instruments could get stuck in transit or even lost, they say.
Graham Parish, Unison regional organiser for the south west, said: ‘In the holiday season, the roads are very busy and there is considerable scope for delays, lost equipment and cancelled operations.’
He added: ‘There is the potential for surgical equipment to become damaged or contaminated in transit.’
Helen Hancox, regional officer for the RCN’s south west region, said: ‘Experiences elsewhere have not been good – there have been problems with kit not being available.
‘The roads around here can be a nightmare, particularly in the summer. Sometimes the traffic grinds to a halt.’