WATER coolers are being removed from every hospital and health centre in Glasgow after a string of infections that led to patients deaths and illness.

A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it was the first board to follow a national infection control directive which is to be rolled out to every hospital in Scotland in the next few months.

Staff in Glasgow’s hospitals were being advised to fill water bottles from cold taps. It is understood the infection concern is thought to relate to the taps of the dispensers.

NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), which advises the Scottish Govenrment on health policy said policy on water dispensers was under review and there was, “currently no ban on drinking water systems.”

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However, according to NHSGGC, boards will be notified in the next ‘month or so’ and all hospitals will be required to remove dispensers.

Union leaders criticised Glasgow’s health board for apparently failing to warn staff about their removal and a lack of planning. NHSGGC said all staff were informed about the move.

A Unison spokesman said he had been inundated with complaints yesterday including from theatre staff at the Canniesburn plastic surgery unit at the Royal Infirmary who complained they had no drinking water for patients in recovery.

There were reports of staff at Glasgow Dental Hospital having to climb flights of stairs to get a drink of water.

Matt McLaughlin of Unison Scotland said: “I have received a significant number of contacts from UNISON members and activists concerning the Boards decision to remove drinking water coolers from the workplace, on the basis that the ‘tap’ in these coolers represents a risk to health from infection control.

“If water from mains taps is the preferred solution, we call upon NHSGGC to undertake a rapid assessment and roll out of drinking water taps – which results in at least one tap for every 50 workers being identified and signposted as ‘safe to drink.”

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A major government inquiry is underway to look at whether the design, construction and maintenance of Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University hospital contributed to a series of infection deaths and patient illness.

The infections have included bugs linked to the water supply which resulted in patients being transferred from the children’s hospital.

A spokesman for NHSGGC said: “Guidance is due to be issued nationally by Health Facilities Scotland stating bottled water coolers should not be used in NHS Scotland healthcare premises.

"This is in response to the potential for bacteria to grow in the nozzle and the water bottle if not routinely used, which could pose an infection risk to vulnerable patients.

"This guidance will be issued to all Boards in Scotland and we are already in the process of removing all bottled water coolers.

"All patients and staff have access to drinking water on wards. This information was shared with all staff on 14 August and facilities staff are available to answer any questions.

A spokesperson for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) said:“The guidance around drinking water systems and dispensing equipment is currently under review by Health Facilities Scotland and is due to be published later this year.

“There is currently no ban on drinking water systems and drinking water dispensing equipment across the NHS in Scotland.”