Royal Free Hospital hygiene worry after cockroach, rat and feral pigeon sightings

The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead has spent �60,000 on pest control since 2010

Feral pigeons, cockroaches and rats are among the pests found in buildings at Hampstead’s Royal Free Hospital.

The Ham&High has learned that since 2010 the hospital in Pond Street has spent almost �60,000 on pest control.

Pest control services have been called 50 times in three years for all types of unhygienic menaces – including ants, fruit-flys, mice, rats and pigeons.

The highest number of call-outs have been for cockroaches, which are known to carry diseases such as salmonella, dysentery and hepatitis.


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The hospital suffered its largest problem with infestations in 2010/11, with 33 calls made. In that year, almost �30,000 was spent on eradicating the creepy-crawlies.

The pest control figures have left some worried about the spread of disease to vulnerable patients and the infrastructure of the buildings, which date from the 1970s.

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John Lister, of campaign group Health Emergency, said: “Pests can carry other pests with them. Not only are they indicators of poor hygiene but they’re unhygenic themselves.

“They leave their own waste and parasites. They shouldn’t be in a modern, properly maintained, hygienic building.”

He added: “How is it that sufficient waste material is being made available to support this wildlfe? The question is how clean is the hospital and where the waste is being disposed?”

In the 1980s, a wave of privatisation meant NHS cleaning was outsourced to private companies in most hospital.

As the NHS suffers more cuts, health advocacy groups have warned of declining standards.

A spokeswoman from Unison, speaking about the nationwide change, said: “Domestic staff transferred over to private cleaning contractors and continuing to work on wards and departments work very hard to maintain standards of cleanliness.

“However, we have noticed they have been asked to undertake an increased number of cleaning tasks in the same amount of time.

“They appear to be under a lot of pressure to complete their work to a high standard in less time and this inevitably has an impact on cleanliness in some areas”

The Royal Free maintains it has “robust procedures” in place.

A spokeswoman said: “We are committed to providing a safe environment for patients and staff and ensuring high standards of hygiene and cleanliness are of major importance.

“We take a vigilant approach to pest control.

“As part of our proactive management programme, pest controllers routinely carry out thorough inspections to anticipate and prevent any infestations.

“We have robust procedures in place to manage any pest problems and take immediate action to respond quickly to any concerns or reported sightings.”

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