NEARLY £20,000 worth of equipment has gone missing from the wards of the Great Western Hospital and community health services over the past three years.

A total of 206 items including thermometers and wheelchairs were reported lost by staff between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

The figures emerged following a Freedom of Information request submitted by the BBC last year asking the Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for an extensive list of all the kit recorded lost, missing or stolen in each one of its units, and their exact cost.

The most common pieces of medical equipment to be reported missing were tympanic thermometers, closely followed by nebulisers, hoist slings worth just under £50, three of its 250 fire extinguishers and wheelchairs, costing £190 each.

A nebuliser is a machine used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs.

Yet the figure was described as slightly misleading by hospital chiefs, who insisted that it did not mean kit had been stolen. They said that although reported missing or lost many of the items listed were still at GWH but had simply been accidentally moved to another ward.

A Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “We have 46,000 items on our asset register with a value of £34.5 million. This includes a range of equipment found in hospitals from beds and computers, to wheelchairs and thermometers. We have a robust asset register and monitoring system and regularly audit items to ensure we have an accurate record of equipment. This is important so we can make informed purchasing decisions, ensuring best value for tax payers.

“We have a strong security team and extensive CCTV throughout the Great Western Hospital and in our community hospitals. We have not recorded any thefts in the last three years; however we do not tolerate theft and would thoroughly investigate any suspected or known theft with involvement from the police.

“Often it is only during regular audits that we discover an item is missing. “Any essential items found to be physically missing are replaced immediately and after two years we retire missing items from our asset register.”

The trust items not found may have been discarded by the user, or labels bearing their asset number may have fallen off. Staff may also have inspected a hoist sling to ensure it was safe and, after finding it damaged, thrown it away without realising that it was a recorded piece of equipment and had to be brought to monitors’ attention.