A FORMER nurse claims cost cutting measures within the area's hospital are affecting patient care - leaving people vulnerable to infections and superbugs.

Andy Welch was admitted to Barrow's Furness General Hospital for five days after falling ill while recovering from shoulder surgery last week.

But the Ulverston resident, who worked as a nurse for 22 years in the south east, claims he witnessed 'appalling' hygiene breaches which left patients susceptible to wound infections, norovirus and MRSA.

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Worse, the 58-year-old said the risks are avoidable and a result of cost-cutting by hospital bosses.

Mr Welch said: "The nurses were absolutely brilliant, they worked so hard.

"But they were rushed off their feet and can't do their jobs properly when they don't have proper support in place.

"The things I experienced while I was in hospital were terrifying - I felt I had to blow the whistle."

Mr Welch was admitted to Ward 5 at FGH, in Dalton Lane, last week.

His essential medication went missing for his entire stay, being located only as he was being discharged.

Staff gave out an update on his condition to his wife over the telephone without verifying her identity and on Sunday he was told there were no clean towels or bedding available on site to allow patients to wash or get back into bed for several hours, Mr Welch added.

He also saw used bedding on the floor - creating the opportunity for bugs to spread.

Mr Welch added: "To be told I couldn't have a wash or get back into bed because there were no clean towels or bed sheets really blew my socks off.

"The cupboard was bare. The nurses were very diligent, but overworked.

"There is cost cutting going on in this hospital and it is affecting the way patients are cared for."

Bosses within the trust that runs FGH launched a sustainability programme earlier this year in a bid to identify ways to save £12 million over the next 12 months.

But they pledged the spending scrutiny will not impact upon the quality of patient care.

After learning of Mr Welch's experience, Sue Smith, executive chief nurse at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, said: "On behalf of the Trust, I’d like to sincerely apologise to Mr

Welch and his family for any distress caused.

"It is very important that we review Mr

Welch’s experience and ensure that we learn from what happened.

"Since we have been made aware of the complaint, we have been trying to contact Mr Welch and hope that we can speak to him soon so that we can investigate the matter and provide feedback directly to him on our findings and any actions we take to learn from this.

"Once again I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Mr Welch and his family."