University Hospital Monklands: Patients moved after discovery of potentially deadly fungus

PATIENTS have been moved from University Hospital Monklands (UHM) following the discovery of a potential deadly fungus. 

NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed that traces of aspergillus have been identified during a programme of upgrades to the ventilation system in the hospital’s haematology ward. 

Due to the vulnerability of patients in the affected ward, NHS Lanarkshire have taken the decision to move the patients to allow them to complete the ongoing upgrading of the ventilation system in an empty ward, and move into their oncology outpatient ward. 

Outpatients from the oncology ward will be relocated and attend their oncology outpatient unit at University Hospital Hairmyres for a time period before relocating back to UHM for the remaining time of the haematology ward being ready for their inpatient service to return.

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NHS Lanarkshire say they have taken a number of precautionary measures in the oncology ward by introducing portable HEPA filters and prescribing anti-fungal medication (prophylactic) for those patients not already being prescribed anti-fungal medication, anti-fungal medication is often prescribing for patients whose immune system is compromised.

None of the patients are showing any signs or symptoms of aspergillosis.

Lynn Mack, NHS Lanarkshire Cancer Services Manager, said: “As soon as aspergillus was identified we took active steps to carry out further testing and identify the necessary steps we needed to take to allow us provide the safest environment we can for some of our most vulnerable patients.

“NHS Lanarkshire follows the Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections (ARHAI) Scotland guidance and all standard infection prevention and control measures are in place to keep patients and staff safe.”

Aspergillus is a common mould, a type of fungus, that lives indoors and outdoors. Most people breathe in aspergillus spores every day without getting sick. However, people with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are at a higher risk of developing health problems due to aspergillus.

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Call to suspend ‘back office’ NHS work to free up staff

A LEADING public health expert said the NHS should adopt a 2020-style emergency footing this winter and consider scaling down “back office” functions.

Dr Graham Foster, the chair of Scottish Directors of Public Health, told MSPs that some of the pressures facing the health service currently might be alleviated in the short-term if staff were freed up from meetings to spend more time on the frontline.

Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Covid Recovery Committee, Dr Foster said: “I do think there is learning to be had from the pandemic – particularly from the first year, when we shut down a lot of our back office functions, we had a lot less meetings, a lot less boards, and much less governance, and we devoted our entire effort to the front door.

“During that time, we were a lot more efficient. So there is a question to be asked about whether there is learning from that and whether we could be more efficient in the NHS if we spent less time in front of computers and at committee meetings and more time with our patients.

“I think there’s an avenue to be explored there.”

HeraldScotland: Dr Graham Foster giving evidence to Covid Recovery Committee, September 8 2022Dr Graham Foster giving evidence to Covid Recovery Committee, September 8 2022

Dr Foster, who is also the director of public health at NHS Forth Valley, said Scotland had “been in the habit” of running the health service “at 95-98 per cent with all of our beds full all of the time”, contrary to guidance which recommends that safe occupancy levels are around 85%.

He added: “We tend not to have mothballed wards that we can bring on to deal with extra peaks, and at the moment it feels like we’re running at about 120% so we’re dealing with more patients that we’ve got hospital beds to put them in.

“That’s the reality and that’s really quite challenging.”.

He said extra money in the short-term “probably wouldn’t help because we can’t get any more staff and build any more buildings in the time we need to get through this winter”.

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It comes after figures earlier this week showed that more than 4,400 patients had spent over 12 hours in A&E departments during July – a record high – with the number of beds being lost to delayed discharge over the same period also higher than ever in a signal of the severe pressure on hospital beds.

HeraldScotland: A&E departments are facing unprecedented delays in admitting patients from emergency rooms to hospital bedsA&E departments are facing unprecedented delays in admitting patients from emergency rooms to hospital beds

More than 35,000 people on waiting lists for inpatient and day case procedures at the end of June had been waiting over a year for their operation, with around 10,000 having been waiting over two years – a figure that was just 98 in March 2020, before the pandemic.

The committee, which was hosting its first evidence session since parliament returned from the summer recess, also heard evidence from Carolyn Low, director of finance for NHS National Services Scotland.

Ms Low said “real choices” will have to be made on what to prioritise.

She said: “The money we’ve had in the past to respond to Covid, it felt like we were resourced properly to do what we had to do.

“But the reality is that that spending resource has stopped and we now need to get back to a position that is more sustainable, and we have wider pressures around inflation that we have to deal with.

“There are real choices that need to be made within health, around prioritisation, and what we have to spend our money on.

“But clearly our choices are limited when were facing a scenario that we have real pressures in our hospitals and we have to tackle that.”

READ MORE: The strange consequences of lockdown – from flu to polio

MSPs also heard that Covid testing has been scaled back so dramatically that one of Scotland’s major regional labs – capable of processing thousands per day – is doing none at all now.

Mary Morgan, chief executive of NSS said capacity could be rapidly scaled up if necessary, but added: “What we are doing, pending what happens after this winter, is maintaining those laboratories in a state of readiness.

“There’s servicing and maintenance costs for equipment, so they are there, they meet regulatory requirements, but just now they’re not fully staffed.

“I visited one a couple of weeks ago and there was no activity going through it at all.”

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Queen under under medical supervision at Balmoral amid health concerns

The Queen is under medical supervision after doctors became concerned for her health, Buckingham Palace said. 

It was added that the 96-year-old monarch “remains comfortable” at Balmoral Palace in Scotland

A Palace spokesperson said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision. The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral.”

Prince Charles and Camilla have travelled to the Scottish residence to be with The Queen, Clarence House confirmed. 

The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay were staying at Birkhall on the estate and made their way to be by the Queen’s side on Thursday. 

Kensington Palace confirmed Prince William is also en route to Balmoral.

Ahead of the announcement, party leaders within the House of Commons passed a note before leaving the chamber temporarily. 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, new Prime Minister Liz Truss and Labour leader Keir Starmer left the chamber during PMQs. 

Upon his return, the speaker said: “I know I speak on behalf of the entire House when I say that we send our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen and that she and the royal family are in our thoughts and prayers at this moment.”

Prime Minister Liz Truss said “the whole country will be deeply concerned by the news from Buckingham Palace this lunchtime” adding “my thoughts – and the thoughts of people across our United Kingdom – are with Her Majesty The Queen and her family at this time”.

The announcement comes after Queen Elizabeth pulled out of a virtual Privy Council on Wednesday. 

At Holyrood, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross approached the clerk sitting beside Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to discuss the developments, as the faces of MSPs and ministers across the chamber registered shock and concern.

At the end of FMQs, Ms Johnstone told the parliament: “I will say at this point colleagues that I am aware that a statement has been made at Westminster on the health of Her Majesty the Queen. I will of course monitor developments and keep members updated over the course of the day.

“But my, and I’m sure the thoughts of all in Parliament, are with Her Majesty at the time.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the news has left everyone “profoundly concerned”. 

In a statement on Twitter she said: “All of us are feeling profoundly concerned at reports of Her Majesty’s health.

“My thoughts and wishes are with the Queen and all of the Royal Family at this time.”

More follows. 

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