A UNIT that cleans surgical instruments for Glasgow’s hospitals was riddled with mould and bacteria and important safety checks had been missed, the Evening Times can reveal.

More than 1,000 operations were cancelled including cancer surgery and NHS work had to be farmed out to the private sector after inspectors ordered an immediate suspension at Cowlairs Decontamination Unit in Springburn on November 13.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said issues with the fabric of the building were responsible for the closure, which lasted almost two weeks, but did not give any further details.

However, information obtained by the Evening Times using Freedom of Information laws, has revealed inspectors uncovered a ‘significant issue’ with bacterial and mould contamination in the cleanroom - the area where instruments are despatched to hospitals.

Inspectors from independent assessors at Lloyd’s Register Business Assurance were also critical that environmental checks scheduled to take place in October, had not been carried out and no results were available for a tests on November 8, leaving inspectors unclear if they had been carried out.

Read more: Operations cancelled after inspection leads to closure of sterilisation unit

The inspectors said: “There was a significant issue relating to bacterial and mould contamination in the cleanroom.

“The October scheduled environmental monitoring was not performed as scheduled and was stated to have been performed 08.11.2018 - no results were available for review.

“Although a deep clean was performed, mould continues to be an issue.”

Professor Hugh Pennington, a leading bacteriologist, said the issue had put instruments at risk of contamination.

He said: “Clean rooms should be impeccably clean, that goes without saying.

“I assume that the clean room is at the end of the process of instrument preparation.

“The environmental problems therefore carry a theoretical risk that outgoing instruments could be contaminated. I also regard the non-performance of scheduled environmental monitoring as an important issue as was poor record keeping.”

Read more: Patients left with 'unforgiveable' lack of information after cleaning unit closure 

Inspectors said the building was in a ‘poor state of repair’ with paint and plaster flaking from the ceilings in the washroom and the cleanroom.

The unit, was cleared for safety on November 22 and production recommenced four days later. However, not before more than 1000 operations were cancelled, including some 'urgent’ cancer operations, hip or knee replacements and all scheduled tonsillectomies.

Some work was transferred to another unit in Inverclyde. However, one whistleblower claimed the board was forced to spend £140,000 sending dirty equipment to a private contractor in Manchester to cope with the problem.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said all appropriate steps would be being taken to ensure the closure did not happen again.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said ‘the majority’ of patients who had operations postponed had been given alternative dates and the remainder would be re-booked over the next two weeks.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “Cowlairs is back in full operation after some issues raised by inspectors were fully addressed.

“The vast majority of patients who had to have procedures postponed have now been re-booked with early appointments and the few remaining will be re-booked within the next two weeks.”