National Health Service (NHS) hospital wards in the UK are being targeted by thieves who steal tens of millions of pounds worth of medical equipment every year.
The revelation was made by More4 News, which surveyed more than 100 hospital trusts across England using the Freedom of Information Act.
Some thefts were likely to involve high-end kit being “stolen to order” by organised gangs, the news programme said. NHS hospitals are particularly vulnerable because they are public places.
Among the thefts were £78,000 of cardiovascular equipment from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire, £114,771 of equipment for studying stomach complaints from Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, and £41,000 of ultrasound machines from West Middlesex University Hospital.
According to More4 News, hospitals carry insurance excesses of between £10,000 and £20,000, meaning they are unable to claim for most of the equipment stolen.
Andrew Greenslade, a crime expert and former special branch officer, said: “Security in hospitals has been stepped up since around 2006, when these sorts of organised thefts became more common, but because of the necessary open nature of hospitals they can never be completely wiped out.
“These crimes will be a mix of opportunity thefts of things such as laptops and stethoscopes – to much more expensive kit which is stolen to order.”
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“Put barcodes on every item and have the posts up on INNER doors so that the alarm goes off way before the thieves reach the outer doors. You could even set up the system to lock the outer doors if the alarm sounds; might be costly, but as much as replacing new equipment?” – Patricia Blackledge, London, UK
“The growing use of laptops in hospitals has not gone unnoticed by thieves. When laptops are stolen from hospitals we have to count the cost of the data contained on them not just the equipment itself. I would like to see greater protection of laptops in hospitals leading to improved data security.” – Roy James, UK
“The theft of medical/hospital equipment has been a serious problem in the US also. In 1998 almost $2.5m dollars in medical equipment was stolen from Florida hospitals.
I am a former police officer and detective with the Veterans Administration in Chicago, where we had five or six endoscopes stolen in 12/1998. I have been collecting data and stories on this problem for years. There have been incidents in Germany, China, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Uganda.
The hospitals need to educate their staff about the theft problem. Then tighten up access to the areas where this equipment is kept and or used. This includes establishing procedures for when outside equipment vendors and repair personnel can work on the equipment.” – Patrick Kerrigan, Oak Lawn, Illinois, US
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