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Home › News › NHS operations cancelled because of failing new instrument cleaning centres

NHS operations cancelled because of failing new instrument cleaning centres

24 April 2008

Operations are being cancelled because equipment is being damaged and delayed by out-sourced private decontamination centres being rolled out across the NHS, warned the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

A survey of over 250 surgeons carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons has revealed widespread frustration and concern across the country with two-thirds of respondents unhappy about the availability and condition of instruments sent for sterilization away from the hospital.

In the past, all hospitals sterilized and cared for equipment on-site. But now NHS Trusts are being encouraged by government to use private sector companies who take equipment to cleaning centres. Although these centres are largely succeeding in their main aim of sterilizing kit – too much is coming back late or going missing and sensitive, expensive tools are being broken. Without the equipment to do the job, surgeons are forced to cancel or abandon operations – sometimes when patients are already anaesthetised and prepared.

“Patients should be concerned to learn that operations they need are being delayed because vital tools are not available,” said Professor Richard Ramsden, who collected the evidence and is an ENT surgeon. “This preliminary study indicates that surgeons working with on-site instrument cleaning facilities are getting a better service, enough to warrant an urgent reassessment of what’s best for the NHS.”

“This is yet another example where something that looks good on paper in Whitehall gets rolled out across the country without adequate professional consultation and proper piloting,” added College President Bernard Ribeiro. “The NHS needs the best decontamination service possible.”






Notes to Editors

1.    The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please visit

2.    If you have any queries please contact:

Matthew Worrall – Email:; T: 020 7869 6047

Elaine Towell – Email:; T: 020 7869 6045

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