Thousands of NHS staff across the UK could have been put at risk of inhaling toxic fumes from cleaning machines, it has been claimed.
Several employees have already reported suffering from nose bleeds, sore throats, burning eyes and chest infections following exposure to hydrogen peroxide vapour.
It’s claimed that staff operated “Deprox” machines without adequate training or protective gear.
Two domestic managers made claims against Swansea Bay University Health Board and each won four-figure payouts in settlements earlier this year.
But up to 3,000 hospital workers could be in line for payouts at over a hundred hospitals across England and Wales, according to Leeds-based Oakwood Solicitors.
The scandal was first brought to the public’s attention in May when a case was settled with Derek Baines, 51, a former Domestic Supervisor at Morriston Hospital in Swansea.
The father-of-four said: “Once the machine had completed its cycle it was supposedly safe to go back into the room; however, when we went back in we would be faced with a smog.
“The vapour had a choking effect. It hit the back of your throat straight away.”
Mr Baines still works in the NHS and, he says, his health improved once he had moved to another hospital.
He believes that, across the NHS, there will be many similar cases to his but, he says, many employees are too intimidated to speak out.
“People are petrified of taking on the NHS over something like this. I know other people who are too frightened to take it on,” he said.
“People think you’re in this for the money. If that was the case I wouldn’t still work in the NHS.
“The NHS Trusts are there to care for people. That should include their staff as well as patients.”
The Deprox machine is manufactured by Kings Lynn-based Hygiene Solutions and works using a solution containing hydrogen peroxide.
The machines are thought to have been widely used across the NHS before being withdrawn across Wales in October 2016 following intervention by the Health and Safety Executive and unions.
However, machines continue to be used at hospitals in other parts of the UK.
Natasha Hardy, who is handling the cases for the law firm, said: “We believe there maybe thousands of cases where cleaners at NHS hospitals have inadvertently inhaled a hydrogen peroxide solution used to decontaminate wards and cubicles.
“When the Deprox machines are used in accordance with the instructions, there is no suggestion that they are anything other than safe.
“However, in the two cases we have settled and the other nine we are currently handling, our position is that staff were not trained to use the machines properly nor were they given the right protective gear.
“As a result, they have suffered all kinds of respiratory problems.
“It’s difficult to give an accurate figure, however, we know of at least 57 NHS trusts that have used the Deprox HPV machines and they are considered to be the creme-de-la-creme of MRSA superbug killers so it is reasonable to expect that lots more hospitals are using them.
“We also suspect that many private hospitals and private care homes use them too.”
In a statement, the Swansea Bay University Health Board said: “The HPV Deprox decontamination machines have been used, and continue to be used, widely across the NHS.
“The health board bought nine of them during 2014 and 2015. At that time there were no known issues regarding their use.
However, after a small number of our staff raised concerns, the health board ceased using the machines in October 2016.
“They have not been reintroduced. The health board now uses alternative means of decontamination.”
Hygiene Solutions has been contacted for comment.