07 March 2023
An environmental technology expert is raising awareness of how effective consultation and analysis can help NHS trusts regulate the presence of nitrous oxide (N2O) in medical settings.
This development, from QED Environmental Systems, follows the revelation that nitrous oxide levels at Watford General Hospital’s maternity suite were as high as 5000 parts per million (ppm) – 50 times over the legal limit.
The incident forms part of a wider issue, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) receiving 11 notifications between August 2018 and December 2022 from seven NHS trusts and one private facility in relation to the gas.
Yolanda Garcia, customer service representative at QED, is signposting some possible solutions for NHS trusts looking to continue using nitrous oxide safely. She said: “Nitrous oxide undoubtedly has its applications in the medical space, but its usage and administration must be closely monitored to ensure that the safety of patients and staff is not compromised.
“It’s not uncommon for healthcare professionals to work shifts as long as 12 hours, and being exposed to such high concentrations of the gas for extended periods can have profound ramifications on long-term health. We are well aware of this issue, and are committed to helping NHS trusts identify a possible solution.”
Nitrous oxide or ‘gas and air’ has long proved a popular anaesthetic in the medical sector, particularly during childbirth on maternity wards. Short-term exposure to the gas can lead to dizziness, unconsciousness and anaemia, while prolonged exposure can lead to infertility and memory loss.
Several NHS trusts have indefinitely suspended use of the gas. However, Yolanda believes that it can still be administered safely in conjunction with specialist gas analysis equipment.
QED Environmental Systems’ G200 N2O gas analyser, for instance, is tailored for use in medical settings, including operating theatres, dental practices veterinary clinics, X-ray departments and maternity wards, and is capable of quickly and accurately assessing the presence of nitrous oxide in the environment.
Yolanda added: “Despite the risks associated with nitrous oxide, it can of course be utilised both safely and effectively. One possible solution would be to have specialist gas analysis equipment available to healthcare professionals or installed in each room where Entonox is delivered.
“Seeking expert consultation is an excellent starting point for any NHS trust looking to broach this issue. Through active collaboration, we can allow hospitals to reap the benefits of nitrous oxide without incurring any long-term risks for patients or staff.”
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