LOUISE Jordan plucks the tissue off the bloody human hip in front of her, places the bone in the blender and uses all her strength to grind it into a mincemeat texture.
Once crushed, the bone and its gooey middle will be used during surgery for life-saving operations.
Louise’s job is vital to saving lives
It’s not a scene you see everyday at NHS hospitals across the UK – but behind the blue curtains, thousands of people just like Louise have life-saving jobs that go unnoticed.
A whopping 125 million of us visit hospitals each year – but it isn’t just doctors and nurses that keep the cogs running smoothly.
From putting bloody surgery knives through industrial dishwashers, to freezing and recycling thigh bones to crush for surgery, and keeping on top of crucial maintenance work, the hidden heroes often lurk backstage.
Doctors and nurses are at the forefront of the NHS, but many work just as hard behind the scenesChannel 5
The cleaning staff are vital in battling deadly infectionsChannel 5
A new Channel 5 documentary, The Secret Life of the Hospital, provides a never-before seen look into the inner workings of the wards at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and meets these unsung heroes.
Recycled “old lady bones” crushed in a ‘mincer’
With the NHS desperately in need of funding, the thousands it costs to dispose of hospital waste makes a huge dent in the spending budget.
But throughout the hospital, recycling systems have been put in place to save any unnecessary disposal.
While you might be getting to grips with your compost bin, and plastic and glass tubs, the NHS recycles the ‘bones of old men and ladies’.
The femoral head is a precious bone recycled for surgery
People undergoing a hip replacement are encouraged to donate their femoral head – the top part of their thigh bone – to be used in spinal surgery.
If donated, the bones are kept in a bank for up to five years, given a sell-by date, and frozen at -80 degrees celsius to keep them in optimum condition.
“We have never disposed of a femoral head when it’s reached its sell-by date. They are always implanted prior to that happening,” says Louise Jordan, bone bank coordinator.
When the time arrives, they are extracted and put into a machine that looks like an old-fashioned food mincer.
Patricia Burgess, theatre matron explains how the process works.
“I remove the soft tissue and cartilage from the head,” she says, while holding a small and bloodied fist-sized bone in her hand.
The bone is grinded down into a mince-meat texture for surgeryChannel 5
She then inserts the bone into the mincer, twists it by hand, and it comes out like full-fat mince-meat, dropping into a bowl.
The resulting mixture is then used for jobs as important as fusing a spine.
Louise adds: “It’s a win, win situation really. People like upcycling.”
The hospital ‘pixies’ who save lives
But Louise and her team aren’t the only heroes at work behind the scenes.
Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome is the leading cause of neonatal death, and while paediatric doctors save baby’s lives every day, it’s the machines like incubators that enable them to give a premature newborn a chance they may never have had.
Jobs like Becky’s are not usually seen, but if a device breaks down, the results could be devastating
In roles we never hear of in medical dramas or doctor documentaries – staff behind the scenes are tasked with the vital role of making sure these life-saving devices stay in optimum condition.
“We have something like 30,000 assets on a hospital site. That does vary from a handheld thermometer, to ventilation machines, incubators and ECGs,” says Becky Watson, Clinical Technologist.
“Our job is to look after anything a patient is connected to.”
Incubators save lives, and Becky says maintenance is ‘proactive rather than reactive’
If an incubator, which provides crucial UV light and the right temperature for a premature or poorly baby fails, the outcome could be devastating.
Similarly, if a patient needs urgent blood scans, their samples are shot across the hospital through a tube-like system that gets to the blood sciences lab at speed.
Each hospital has around 30,000 devices costing thousands, and a team to make sure they keep running. Gary fixes a CT machine.Channel 5
If stuck or jammed with a build-up of cylinders of blood, crucial treatment could be delayed.
The team also have to service the £480K CT scan machines, which allow doctors to analyse for brain damage and skull fractures, and X-ray machines – used for a staggering 42 million appointments a year.
Becky adds: “We replace the parts straight away. We tend to be the pixie service. We drop in, unseen, to pick up the equipment that’s failed, and then we drop it back when it’s tested and fixed.”
Bloody knives in the dishwasher and robot cleaning machines
Bloodied knives, used to cut open bodies and perform surgeries, can be used around 1300 times before they are decommissioned as the NHS simply can’t afford to buy new equipment per patient.
This unique robots exert poisonous gas to blitz the wards once a yearChannel 5
Each device can cost from £400-£8000, so they’re all put through an industrial dishwasher, before being wrapped and put through a sterilising machine.
Colour-coded tape is used to indicate when the equipment is ready to be re-used.
Surgical equipment is so expensive it has to be washed and re-used
Before and after a patient reaches the surgeon’s table, they also require clean bed sheets. Open wounds especially are easily contaminated with infections.
The state-of-the-art laundry room washes 260,000 pieces of laundry a week – including bed sheets and doctors’ and nurses’ scrubs – and 14 million items a year.
The trays go in to a sterilising machine ready for theatre
Ian Cross, linen services coordinator says: “Patient gowns, nightwear, and theatre suits – you name it, we’ve got it. [Dangerous germs] go through a double wash, so we’re going to absolutely kill whatever is in it.”
The industrial cleaning machines clean 260,000 items a week, but need to be carefully managed by staff
Once a year – ward by ward – the hospital also undergoes an intense ‘deep clean’, and a special ‘stem-cleaning’ robot, similar to a Doctor Who droid, is wheeled out.
The process only takes two and a half hours, during which time, the ward is closed and completely sealed so the robot can release a hydrogen peroxide vapour, which it sucks back in after the allotted time.
The laundry team are on hand to pick out mobiles, latops and precious items from the bed sheetsChannel 5
The last MRSA statistics showed the disease contributed to 364 registered deaths, with 1 in 30 of us living with the bacteria harmlessly in our noses, armpits or groin.
Which Evans Cycles branches are closing and when did Sports Direct buy it?
Brave cancer nurse who crowdfunded £100k for treatment dies aged 42
First pic of Coatbridge woman found dead in suspected 'murder-suicide'
Mum gives birth at supermarket in 11 minutes as cashier helps deliver baby
Cops tackling 'ongoing incident' at Falkirk police station as building shut off
KNIFED TO DEATH
Man dies after being stabbed in London park as capital's bloodshed rages on
While it’s usually harmless on the surface, if it gets deeper into the body it can cause a ‘superbug’ – resistant to anti-biotics.
With this in mind – cleaners and behind-the-scenes workers could be saving as many lives as doctors. We just don’t see it.
The Secret Life of The Hospital: Revealed is on Channel 5, tonight at 9pm