NHS surgeons forced to ‘work in the dark’ after power failure blunder

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Minutes of a recent hospital board meeting, released on Thursday under the Freedom of Information Act, disclosed that surgeons were forced to complete an operation by torchlight as a result of the failure.

Ambulances were also placed on emergency standby but were not needed after power was quickly restored.

According to the minutes, the problems were caused by the main power failing during the tests.

Two generators, which required manual starting, failed while the problem was also exacerbated by a failure of backup battery-powered lights.

One unnamed board member said the problems on 13 March this year, were an “unacceptable for an event of this nature to have happened”.

“[She] commented that she was mindful that for an event such as this the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) could present the trust with an improvement notice or prohibition notice,” the minutes said.

“She asked if the patient who had been in surgery at the time had been informed that their surgery had been finished by torchlight.”

No details were disclosed about what type of surgery was involved or how long power was out for.

The Gloucestershire Hospital NHS Trust admitted that it learned lessons from the “unique event”.

Despite admitting ambulances were placed on standby to transfer any affected patients, a spokesman denied patient care or safety were compromised.

“Powered suction only was temporarily lost in ICU, where specialist staff are fully trained to deliver manual suction when required,” he said.

“The Board Papers refer to a single patient in an operating theatre at the time of the incident. The operation itself had been completed and the patient was being closed after surgery.

“The patient was fully informed following the incident, but was in no danger at any time. Neonatal Intensive Care and SCBU were not affected.”

He added: “There was no compromise to patient care at any time.

“The Trust continues to work with specialist electrical contractors to ensure robust maintenance and Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) testing regimes are in place.”

The incident occurred on a Saturday when few operations were being carried out.

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