By Martin Graham
HEARTLESS thieves are putting patients’ lives at risk by stealing half a million pounds worth of medical equipment from hospitals across Scotland every year.
A patients’ group yesterday (Sun) said the theft of hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment could lead to a delay in patients being diagnosed.
And – according to the Scottish Patients Association – crooks could even use stolen gear to impersonate medics.
Last night Margaret Watt, chair of the SPA said: “This is putting patients’ lives at risk.
“We are very concerned about this.
“If we don’t have the machines then people can’t find out what’s wrong with them.
“It could lead to a delay in treatment if people have to wait on another machine to be used.
“There could be someone waiting to find out if they have cancer.
“Anyone could walk into a hospital unchallenged, put on a white coat and impersonate a doctor.
“They could bring a knife on to a ward with them.”
Ms Watt called for a shake-up in security procedures to bring hospitals in line with other public facilities.
She said: “The Scottish Parliament has very high security, you need to sign in and get badged, why not have the same level of security in our hospitals?
“Supermarkets and shops will put security tags on to items worth twenty pounds, why not have electronic tags on hospital equipment which is worth thousands of pounds.
“There must be a ready market for this equipment, people would not steal a complex machine just to have it for themselves in the garage.”
The stolen kit included a £60,000 scanner, a pressure imaging sensor worth £10,500 and an Ocuscan eye screening device valued at £10,000.
Cunning burglars gained access to a ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston and managed to escape with the Ocuscan eye machine through an open window.
Staff at NHS Fife said that items taken from wards included a motorised wheelchair and an orthopaedic couch.
Officials from NHS Grampian confirmed that five laptop computers and an opthalmoscope had been reported missing from hospitals.
Other items regularly taken from wards include mobile phones, credit cards and jewellery.
In total the stolen gear was worth an estimated £500,000 per year. It is thought much of the equipment is sold to clinics abroad.
Hospital bosses have been told to improve their security procedures following the revelations.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Levels of security will vary depending on where in a hospital you are – for example, some wards and clinical areas will have very strict controls, but public areas have more open access.
“Hospitals are public buildings and it is neither practical or desirable to turn them into fortresses.
“However, it is the responsibility of health boards to ensure they have the right security measures and I have made it very clear that I expect them to improve on their already robust systems.”
Former NHS worker Douglas Stevenson was jailed for 20 months in May after he stole medical supplies worth £23,000 and sold them on ebay.
Anaesthetic assistant Stevenson, 31, pilfered the items while working at hospitals across Glasgow, then stored them in an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of supplies in his garage and in his sister’s house.
He sold the items to buyers as far away as Australia and the USA before being caught out by manufacturers who spotted their specialist kit for sale on the internet auction site.