Criminal gangs 'targeting hospitals'

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Hospitals are being targeted by criminal gangs stealing medical equipment to sell abroad, according to reports.

Police and NHS officials are linking a number of thefts in which hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of diagnostic equipment were taken, according to the BBC.

It reported that the NHS Security Management Service is helping the police with investigations and has sent advice to NHS trusts on how to protect valuable equipment.

Trusts have been warned to be alert to the theft of specialised equipment such as scanners and endoscopy devices.

York Hospital reportedly had £300,000 of endoscopy equipment, used for internal examinations, taken in a recent raid.

The University Hospital of North Durham had a £35,000 heart scanner taken, while endoscopes were stolen from both Leicester General Hospital and Newcastle's Freeman Hospital, the BBC said.

Also allegedly targeted were hospitals in Middlesex and Cambridge.

Det Sgt Judith Smith of North Yorkshire Police, who has been liaising with forces across the country, said equipment was probably being sold in eastern Europe and Africa.

She told the BBC: "There are quite a few similarities in the cases we have seen. It seems there are organised by groups or a group of individuals who know what they are doing."

Paul Gilderdale, a security management specialist at the service, reportedly said: "It certainly seems like hospitals are being targeted by organised criminals. We are getting details of more and more thefts."