HEALTH minister Edwina Hart has authorised £2.7m to buy a unit near Wrexham Maelor Hospital used to decontaminate and sterilise equipment.

The building is currently leased by the North Wales NHS Trust but costs have risen by half and another 30% rise is expected at the end of the present five-year agreement.

The Assembly Government approved the purchase based on professional advice and taking into account the costs associated with moving the unit.

The investment will provide further opportunities for expansion, a spokesman said.

Mrs Hart said the deal offered good value for money.

“The Sterilisation and Decontamination Units at hospitals across Wales are essential in the effective and safe delivery of health care,” she said.

“Following strict guidelines and procedures, each piece of equipment includes a unique barcode so it can be tracked through the decontamination and sterilisation process, and is then returned to the theatre or ward for subsequent use.

Š“This investment will enable this service to continue and avoid any inconvenience and disruption for staff.

“This is a good investment for the taxpayer as it secures the long-term future of the service and provides opportunities for it to expand.”

Michael Williams, chairman of North Wales NHS Trust, said: “Although the work of the sterilisation unit takes place out of sight of our patients, it plays a crucial part in ensuring their safety.

Š“Over the past 15 years the staff there have developed a first class service, achieving ISO accreditation and European quality standards.

Š“We are delighted to have Welsh Assembly Government backing to make sure this vital facility can continue to supply safe, sterilised equipment and instruments to our operating theatres, wards and departments.”

The minister approved a business case for the purchase from North Wales NHS Trust.

The unit, which opened in 1992, was the first in North Wales to be accredited, and recently had its accreditation renewed for a further three years following an external audit.

It provides all departments and wards with equipment and materials needed to carry out clean and sterile procedures on patients, and also provides a service for the community nurses in North East Wales and also for the Spire Hospital, near the Maelor site.

Last year, more than 200,000 pieces of equipment were treated there.

But with theatre trays and packs containing many instruments, it means millions of items making their way through the process, which includes decontamination and autoclaving.

The £2.7m capital cost of this investment will be funded by the Welsh Assembly Government.