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27 November 2011, 07:38
Hospital operating staff in Oxford have been issued with whistles to blow for help in an emergency, it has been disclosed.
Managers at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford have conceded that there is no integrated call bell system in place.
Staff at the hospital have described the issuing of whistles as an "insult'' and expressed concern that patients' lives may be put at risk.
The operating theatres have a call bell that prompts a light to flash in a room near to the operating theatres and in the staff rest room.
The system is used to summon a porter for help with moving a patient to or from the operating theatre and recovery room, and fetching supplies and equipment.
But, although the call bell is still operating, the porters have now been moved to the open corridor in a bid to make them more "visible and accessible''.
However, it means the porters are not able to see the flashing lights and has prompted the issuing of whistles to help alert them.
Hospital chiefs said there were also other options available, including using an internal telephone system, an intercom and two-way radios.
John Radcliffe Hospital officials said operating theatres there are older and have never had an integrated call bell system common in modern operating theatres.
But inquiries have now been made to fit such a system, which will cost around £14,000.
A spokesman for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said there had been no incidents linked to the change in practice.
Amanda Middleton, general manager of critical care, theatres, diagnostics and pharmacy, said it seemed "eminently sensible'' to have different ways of communicating to staff.
She said: "The system has changed in recent weeks to improve the visibility and accessibility of the porters who support the operating theatre and recovery room staff in the John Radcliffe Hospital.
"Operating theatre staff do still have a number of options available for summoning support from porters and one of these is the use of whistles.
"The whistles have been added to the range of options so that staff have a way of raising support quickly that is simple and effective and not reliant on technology.
"So far the whistles have not been needed but if all else fails they are available for use.
"It seems eminently sensible to have a range of communications tools available to staff and sometimes the simplest options are the best ones.
"The older operating theatres at the John Radcliffe Hospital have never had an integrated call bell system but that is about to change.
"We are installing a new system as soon as we can action the work.''