HOSPITALS in Bradford and Airedale spent more than £17,000 last year to rid their wards and department of pests such as ants, rats, mice, and biting insects.

Silver fish, fleas and flies were also reasons for pest control to be called in to exert their exterminating powers, according to the results of a Freedom of Information request by the Telegraph & Argus.

While Bradford Teaching Hospitals paid out £11,000 this year for its weekly pest control visits, the bill over the past 12 months for Airedale Hospital calling pest control out 118 times totalled £6,259.80.

At Airedale, ants on its wards, in X-Ray and at A&E as well as some of its offices have been the biggest pest problem of all requiring 74 call-outs in 2014-15, compared to 25 times the year before and on only nine occasions the previous year to that.

After ants this year, wasps were the other biggest pest needing 17 call-outs, followed by ten for mice and rats and nine for silver fish.

Outbreaks of fleas and other biting insects each demanded the attention of pest control twice.

Overall, pest control was called out to Airedale Hospital 118 times in 2014-15 almost four times more than in 2013-14.

Stacey Hunter, director of operations at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Due to the changing weather we have had over the last few years we have seen an increase in insects on the hospital site and have called in pest control experts to ensure any concerns are dealt with quickly and do not become a nuisance for staff and patients.

"The hospital’s rural setting does pose different challenges in comparison to city centre sites, however keeping patients safe and reducing any risk of harm or infection is always our top priority and we treat insect infestations just as seriously as any other incidents that could affect patient care.”

A spokesman for Bradford Teaching Hospitals Trust said it had no record of how many times pest control was called out because it has a contract service that visits all its hospital sites on a weekly basis. This year that contract spend was £11,000.

The spokesman said: “Regular and sustained cleaning plays an essential part in helping to prevent the spread of infection and provides a clean and safe environment for our patients and visitors.

"We work in partnership with external services, including pest control, on a regular, preventative basis to ensure as far as possible that our hospitals and grounds remain problem free.”

The Trust has the equivalent of 62 full-time employees on its cleaning team. The cost of its cleaning service, including staff, this year was £3.9 million.