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Water authority “let hospital down”

An “overstretched and disorganised” water authority left hospitals struggling to cope in last summer’s floods crisis, a Department of Health report says.

Staff at Cheltenham General Hospital had been forced to manhandle 13 tonnes of bottled water themselves in addition to their other duties, the report found, adding that Severn Trent Water’s attitude had been that it was the hospital’s problem to get water to where it was actually needed.

And when systems needed to be decontaminated, Severn Trent refused to increase chlorination in line with Department of Health guidelines. Sixty NHS trust employees had to spend six weeks – a total of 3,000 hours – “superchlorinating” the water themselves.

Gloucestershire Hospitals director of property and medical engineering Graham Marsh told the Health Service Journal: “Severn Trent were totally out of their depth. They have committed to supply this hospital. There’s no alternative supplier. They let themselves down.”

A Severn Trent spokeswoman said: “Our plans could have been more robust, and we have taken steps to address this. We have made improvements in flood defences, in long-term water supply resilience – which means we can substitute one key asset with another without loss of supply – and in contingency planning should supplies fail.”

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