BBC Panorama raises concerns over poor quality surgical instruments from Pakistan

“Substandard surgical tools from Pakistan are putting UK patients at risk of potentially deadly injury and infection, BBC Panorama has found.”  So reads the summary of the programme “Surgery’s Dirty Secrets”, aired by the BBC on 27th June 2011,

In this edition of the “world’s longest running investigative TV show” (Panorama web-site), reporter Samantha Poling visits Sialkot, Pakistan to see at first hand the working conditions and business practices which occur in the manufacture of surgical instruments there.  As a result of the investigation, the BBC have “discovered that poor-quality surgical instruments are being supplied to the NHS.  Panorama has found that shoddy equipment, which is imported, could leave patients vulnerable to potentially life-threatening injury or infection”.  The BBC News UK web-site goes on to say that “faults include rough edges, steel burrs that can splinter during operations and corroded metals” (27th June 2011).

The main thrust of the report focuses on three areas: the poor working conditions within Pakistan; the poor quality of instruments being manufactured there and the misleading way in which instruments are being marked overseas, thereby devaluing the genuinely higher quality products which are available in the marketplace.

As a prime British manufacturer of surgical instruments, with quality of both product and working conditions at the forefront of its efforts, S Murray & Co has welcomed the discussions which have followed the programme.  Over recent years, the company has seen a trend within the NHS for surgical instruments to have become devalued, almost commoditised items, where price has become the overriding purchasing decision criteria.  If at the very least the programme helps to create a greater awareness about the instruments which are being supplied into the NHS, and if it encourages consumers to re-engage with the important and significant role that surgical instruments play, then hopefully the questions over the true value of quality and the cost of getting it wrong can really be understood and addressed collectively.

Links to the programme and the BBC web-site referred to above, as well as S Murray’s response statement can be found as follows:

Download S Murray manufacturer’s statement of origin PDF