The cleanliness of most NHS hospitals in England is threatened by frequent invasions of rats, fleas, bedbugs, flies and cockroaches, a report claims.
Figures released by the Conservatives show that 70% of NHS Trusts brought in the pest controllers at least 50 times between January 2006 and March 2008. Vermin were found in wards, clinics and even operating theatres. A patients' group said the situation was revolting.
The figures were obtained by the Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act, with every hospital asked to reveal how often pest controllers had visited over the two-year period in question.
Of those who replied, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust topped the table, with more than 1,000 incidents, and five other trusts passed the 800 mark. All the respondents had reported some pest problem in the two-year period. Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said that, as the fourth largest in England, it was likely to encounter more pest control problems, and might be recording incidents differently to other trusts.
While most infestations involved non-clinical areas, some trusts reported problems nearer to patients. One had wasps in a neo-natal unit, and flying ants on the main wards, while another reported rats in their maternity unit, and wasps in operating theatres. A children's A&E was infested with flies, and main wards were also home to mice, silverfish, biting insects and beetles. Other common problems included bedbugs, fleas and cockroaches.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley says: "Labour have said over and over that they will improve cleanliness in our hospitals, but these figures clearly show that they are failing."
A spokesman from the Patients Association says: "Such findings are truly revolting. How can patients be safe amid bedbugs, fleas and rats? These findings reveal what happens when money is taken away from where patients expect to see it spent. If these hospitals were restaurants they would be closed down and out of business."