40 operations cancelled at embattled hospital after rat is discovered in surgical theatre

Rats can spread salmonella and the potentially deadly Weil’s disease

An embattled hospital was forced to cancel 40 operations after the discovery of a rat in one of its surgical theatres, it emerged today.

King's Mill Hospital, in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which is reported to be facing a £2bn debt under the controversial private finance initiative (PFI), confirmed that it called in pest controllers last week.

Senior managers apologised to patients but said none had been put at risk by the presence of the rat which is believed to have entered the theatre when it was not in use.

Rats can spread salmonella and the potentially deadly Weil’s disease.

Karen Tomlinson, director of operations at the hospital, said rodents had not been discovered in any other part of the hospital.

She said: “As soon as we became aware of this fact the following morning, we immediately took steps to thoroughly clean the area and called in external pest control experts to eradicate the problem.

"Whilst this work was under way, it was therefore necessary to postpone a small number of operations and we have apologised to any patients affected for the inconvenience caused.”

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed the costs of a PFI project at the hospital have more than doubled.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, signed the 38-year contract in 2004 for £976m to fund modernisation work.

The cost of paying back capital and other costs is now estimated at £738m.

Last month Tracy Doucet, the chair of the trust, stepped down following a letter from independent health regulator group Monitor which raised serious concerns over the financial and management issues facing the hospital.

The group also ordered an inquiry into patient care at the hospital when it emerged nearly 80 breast cancer patients were being recalled after being given inaccurate test results.

In February Jason Ketley, 42, was reported to have been savaged by a rat at a specialist care unit in Surrey.

The attack was alleged to have happened at St Ebba's in Epsom. Mr Ketley, who suffers from learning difficulties, was spotted by staff stumbling around a corridor with the rodent hanging from his neck by its teeth.

Nurses knocked it off and killed it and he was later treated at an accident and emergency unit.

Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, described the incident as “genuinely shocking” and said it was taking the report very seriously.

However, hospital officials later claimed the animal was a field mouse driven inside by nearby housing development.

In April a survey of 40 hospital trusts revealed that pest controllers were called hundreds of times a year to deal with infestations of vermin including rats, mice, cockroaches and fleas in hospitals.

It found rats in a palliative care ward and an incident of mice in a children’s nursery. Other hospitals reported problems with squirrels, foxes and birds.

The National Health Service has reduced cases of MRSA and C.difficile following a nationwide campaign however other infections are on the increase.