Hundreds of pest control call-outs to St Helens hospitals

St Helens Hospital
St Helens Hospital

Hundreds of pests have been found in St Helens and Whiston hospital over the last five years as the cost of tackling them has spiralled, new figures reveal.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found there were 416 pest control call outs by St Helens’ NHS Trust between the financial years 2011/12 and 2015/16.

The figures emerged as part of a nation-wide survey by the Press Association.

They found thousands of pests including cockroaches and rats have been found in NHS hospitals in each of the last five years as the cost of tackling them has spiralled, new figures show.

The areas where pests have been sighted included maternity wards, children’s intensive care units and operating theatres.

The amount of money hospitals spent on treating pests reached nearly £1.1 million in the year to March 2016 and the overall figure is likely to be far higher as 87 of around 150 trusts responded to the request.

Some refused to say how much they had spent, citing private finance initiative (PFI) deals or that the information was “commercially sensitive”.

And costs have soared compared with five years ago, based on an analysis of the like-for-like data from the 62 trusts that provided figures for both 2011/12 and 2015/16, which showed a rise of more than 26% over the period from £646,857 to £815,855.

The majority of trusts outsourced their pest-control to private contractors such as Rentokil, ISS Facility Services and Medirest and paid for regular inspections as well as ad hoc call-outs to pest sightings.

Spending at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust almost doubled between 2011/12 and 2015/16, from £67,425 to £132,210 - by far the highest of the trusts which responded.

A spokesman from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said: “We take all pest control matters very seriously and deal with them swiftly.

“As a large provider of health services in London, the importance of high standards of cleanliness means a robust approach to incidents and prevention is absolutely essential.”

A total of 4,885 call-outs were made in the last year to March, while like-for-like figures from 57 trusts showed there were 3,880 call-outs in 2015/16, a rise of 3% on 2011/12.

University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust and Pennine Acute Hospitals (PAH) NHS Trust each recorded more than 300 incidents in 2015/16.

Pest sightings at UHL, which runs the Leicester General, Leicester Royal Infirmary and Glenfield hospitals and treats more than one million patients each year, more than trebled from 104 in 2011/12 to 337 in 2015/16.

These included cockroaches found in the fifth level of the Infirmary’s Windsor building, which houses the specialist medicine admissions unit and elderly patient wards, rodents spotted in the maternity block and insects sighted in operating theatres at Leicester General Hospital.

Across the four hospitals run by the Pennine Acute Hospitals trust in the Greater Manchester area, there were 302 pest sightings in the last year, marking a fall from 346 in 2011/12.

Reports between April 2015 and March 2016 included a cockroach “infestation” in the day surgery ward at the Royal Oldham Hospital (ROH), maggots found in the accident and emergency ward kitchen and a call logged from the ROH laundry which read: “Urgent - there are lots of cockroaches”.

Darryn Kerr, director of estates and facilities at UHL NHS Trust, said: “The trust is aware of the problems associated with pest control and contracts are in place for all three acute hospitals to manage the issues effectively, which can often be a result of seasonal problems.”

A spokesperson for PAH NHS Trust said: “Recent mild winters have seen an increase in vermin across the country.

“We take patient, staff and visitor safety seriously and deploy preventative measures to pest control by employing a pest control contractor to visit each of our four hospitals every week, particularly in areas where our facilities are susceptible to vermin.

“We have also introduced additional housekeeping measures as well, such as frequently emptying bins and cleaning across our sites.

“We believe the construction work at Westwood Park at The Royal Oldham Hospital, where we have built a new staff car park, as well as construction and expansion work at our other hospital, has disturbed their natural habitat.

“We always act very promptly to deal with any pests that are reported to us and we take pest control very seriously, reacting quickly to deal with any issues so that staff and patients are not affected.”

The spokesman added that during 2015/16 the trust had reduced the number of pest incidents by 28.5% on the previous year, when reports totalled 423.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Hospitals must have an effective pest control policy and the use of experts is good practice to ensure that buildings are kept clean and safe for patients.”