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June 29, 2011

UK ambulances ban cuddly toys over infection fears

By Heather Pickstock
Bristol Evening Post

ENGLAND — The ambulance service has refused a gift of knitted toys from a Backwell mothers' group over concerns about infections.

Volunteers from the Mothers' Union wanted to donate the cuddly toys to the ambulance service to comfort children being transferred to hospital.

But Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS), which operates the emergency service in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the former Avon area, said the toys could pass infection from patient to patient.

Members of Backwell Mothers' Union have branded the decision ridiculous and are now sending their cuddly toys abroad.

Spokeswoman, Gwen Adams, said: "I think health and safety rules have become utterly ridiculous.

"It means we are unable to help children in our own country. We've instead been sending the toys we make abroad."

Backwell Mothers' Union has been running its Teddies for Trauma - which also supplies teddies to hospitals - for many years.

Anitra Steckles, 63, one of its 35 members, said the toys help children after a stressful experience.

She said: "We used to give teddies to young children who had been through traumas such as a death in the family or if they were poorly and had to travel in an ambulance.

"They used to be there to hold onto something."

GWAS said that minimising the spread of infection was their top priority when transporting patients and they have invested money into ensuring their ambulances are designed to minimise infections.

Spokesman John Oliver said: "Ambulances are used to transport very ill people with open wounds and those who are particularly sick and the toys could pass one infection from patient to patient.

"A huge amount of time and effort is spent between every job to clean the ambulances and the vehicles have been designed with smooth surfaces and no cracks so there is nowhere for germs to harbour.

"The designs of ambulances and the materials of our uniforms are constantly being improved to ensure the best infection control.

"We understand entirely that it's done with the best of intentions and it has been very welcome. Clearly our major concern is the safety of all our patients and in modern ambulances, where the utmost is done to ensure they are clear from infection, it's no longer suitable to carry the toys."

Copyright 2011 Bristol United Press

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