PROBLEMS with a unit that cleans surgical instruments for all of Glasgow’s hospitals were identified months before the facility was shut down by inspectors, it has emerged.

The Cowlairs unit in Springburn closed on November after a “significant” issue with mould and bacteria was identified. The two-week closure led to more than 1,000 operations being cancelled and some work being farmed out to the private sector.

Sources have told the Evening Times that the problem was first identified in February, nine months before the unit closed. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said issues had been raised earlier in the year but the problem was “not resolved” ahead of the inspection.

Work was carried out during the two week closure which resulted in the suspension being lifted which has raised questions, why it was not carried out earlier in the year.

It has also emerged that the health board considered whether to tell people who underwent surgery using the implements before the unit closed but decided against it, saying that the risks they faced were “very low”.

A leaked memo said lawyers had advised that “no duty of candour” had been “triggered by this incident”.

Glasgow Labour MP Paul Sweeney has called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to the closure.

He said: “It sounds like they have cut corners on maintenance, which is clearly a result of budget cut.

“I think there needs to be a thorough, independent investigation carried out to establish if were negligent and if this is the case, they should face disciplinary action.”

The health board is carrying out its own internal review into the closure. A spokeswoman said there had been no increase in patient infection rates, “prior to, during and since” the closure of the unit.

Inspectors also raised concerns that it was not clear if the health board had carried out its own environmental checks as there was no record of any tests.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “There is an internal review which has not yet concluded.

“We have made clear from the outset that the issues did not relate to the unit’s processes for sterilising equipment.

“The temporary closure of the unit related to ongoing issues with the fabric of the building, record keeping and training.

“As we have previously confirmed these issues had first been raised earlier in the year but had not been resolved ahead of the inspection by our quality assurance auditors in November.

“The inspection was carried out on the Tuesday 13th but the letter notifying us that certification was to be temporarily withdrawn was only received two days later, on Thursday 15th, when we suspended activity and put in place safe contingency arrangements to maintain our emergency activity.

“Surgical site infection rates are closely and routinely monitored and both prior to, during and since the temporary closure, there have been no increases in infection rates.