PERFORMANCE: Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust has blamed “hidden” damage to a cable by a private contractor for a power cut that hit the hospital at the end of last year.

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue had to provide generators in order to keep Luton and Dunstable Hospital’s emergency department running and nearly 150 operations were cancelled as a result of the power cut in November.

The minutes of the trust’s January board meeting, released to HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed the incident in a section headed “electricity distribution centre problems and elective surgery recovery plan”.

The minutes note general manager of estates and facilities Ian Allen briefed the board, showing it a “length of damaged cable, which was scarred during works for the St Mary’s Wing”. He told the board: “We feel this is damage that has been hidden by the contractor.”

The minutes said that, because only three of the hospital’s theatres had uninterruptable power supply backup, 146 operations in total were cancelled as a result of the power cut. It noted there had been an “impact on targets” and plans were being made to “address the backlog”. “We have lost income which we need to recover”, the papers add.

Trust director of finance Andrew Harwood is recorded as saying: “The biggest concern re cancelled operations is in orthopaedics and that we should consider seeking financial recompense for additional lists”.

The trust refused to reveal the name of the contractor involved. A spokeswoman said: “The Luton and Dunstable Hospital experienced a reduction in regular voltage levels on 30 November 2010 which was sufficient to activate stand-by power generators.  Emergency generators kicked in automatically and no patients were put at risk.  

“Subsequent investigation into the cause of the incident revealed damage to a cable which appears to have occurred several years ago.”