London, Aug.6 : Most of the 171 hospitals that come under the purview of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) are infested with rats, fleas, bed bugs and other forms of vermin.
This horrific data has emerged through a Conservatives query sought under Freedom of Information rules, reports the Daily Telegraph.
What is even more alarming is the fact that at least eight hospitals trusts have called in pest control officers more than 500 times to eradicate rats found in maternity wards, wasps and fleas in neo-natal units, bed bug infestations, flies in operating theatres and maggots found in patients' slippers.
The Conservatives asked all 171 Hospital trusts in England for details of pest control incidents for the last two years. Of those, 127 Trusts responded and almost all had experienced problems and 100 of them collected detailed information about pest infestations.
In total there were almost 20,000 reports of pest problems and seven out of 10 trusts that responded reported they had called in pest control officers more than 50 times since January 2006 - an average of once a fortnight.
Of the trusts that collected detailed information 80 per cent had problems with ants, 66 per cent had rats, 77 per cent had mice, 59 per cent had problems with cockroaches, 65 per cent had biting insects or fleas, 24 per cent had problems with bed bugs and 6 per cent had maggots.
The paper quoted Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley as saying: "We need greater transparency in NHS infection control, and publishing data like this is one way in which we can drive up overall hygiene standards."
Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: "Hospitals must be responsible for ensuring their buildings are clean and that patient safety is not compromised. The Hygiene Code requires NHS bodies to have a pest control policy that anticipates and manages this issue.