NHS hospitals in England have reported 456 sewage leaks in the past 12 months, according to figures released by the Liberal Democrats.
A freedom of information (FoI) request by the political party received responses from 55 NHS trusts, with the Lib Dems calling the findings “staggering”.
The worst trusts were Leeds Teaching Hospital, which reported 105 sewage leaks, and North Tees & Hartlepool Hospitals, with 80 leaks.
“This is a national scandal. Our country’s hospitals are falling apart after years of underinvestment and neglect. Patients should not be treated in these conditions and heroic nurses should not have the indignity of mopping up foul sewage,” said Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.
Exposure to raw sewage brings with it well-recognised potential health risks, including illnesses such as gastroenteritis. It can also cause skin, ear, eye, chest and lung infections.
Health and safety
Workers cleaning up any sewage have to follow careful health and safety protocols, including wearing protective clothing such as rubber gloves, boots and eye protection, and go through proper decontamination afterwards. It stands to reason that vulnerable or sick people, as you would get in a hospital, should be kept well away.
At Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, its roof is in danger of collapsing at any moment and so cannot treat patients over a certain weight in some wards as a result. The hospital also registered sewage leaks, amid speculation it is not up to standard, the Liberal Democrats said.
Feedback from staff within the FoI was also grim from a health perspective. “There was water flooding the floor… patient got up the bed and slipped due to the water,” said one respondent.
“Raw sewage smell is still ongoing and staff are struggling to work in these conditions. They are all experiencing feeling nauseous, having headaches and feeling very tired,” said another.
“Department was unsafe, unable to access minors. We were very lucky that nobody slipped on the water. It was embarrassing to run a department that has sewage leaking everywhere and offensive odour,” added a third.
These reports follow an investigation by the Liberal Democrats that found only one in four of the 40 new hospitals promised by the government has planning permission.