Friday, 17 June 2011

Is there a doctor in the house?

If there's anything to be learnt in politics, it's that photo opportunities are great for public opinion.  Especially involving children, the elderly or ill people.  So of course, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg would be found in a hospital ward, speaking to patients.  However, their little chat with the patients was interrupted by a very irate surgeon.

Doctor Nunn, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon of Guy's Hospital, took offence to the camera crew and political aides who did not adhere to the strict hygiene rules of the ward (i.e. rolled up sleeves and scrubbed arms), which were put in place to prevent to spread of superbugs in hospitals.  It was reported that a ward sister had authorised the staff's attire because they weren't coming into close contact with patients.  However true that may be, I do feel more inclined to agree with the doctor.  With the NHS in the state it is in most of the time, it's hard enough to be able to keep a hospital clean and safe for the people who go in to get better.  The last thing you want to do is to go into a hospital only to contract a horrible infection and die as a result.  Doctor Nunn was only thinking of his responsibility to his patients, and rightly so. 

I am not medically trained by any means, but I do think that the state of hospitals in the UK could stand to do better.  I miss the days when I could walk into a hospital and be overwhelmed by the smell of antiseptic and at the stark cleanliness of the building.  Then again, I have been called a bit of a weirdo for actually finding the smell comforting.  But why shouldn't it be?  Unless someone accidentally dropped a bottle of Dettol, I think it is a sign of good hygiene to be able to actually smell how clean a supposedly sterile environment is.  Or at least be able to tell at a glance how clean a hospital is if their cleaning products are odourless.  It could well be that the reports of infections such as MRSA are only feared because it's being reported more, but given how many hospitals are under review, have closed or are under going investigation due to outbreaks of infection or accused of neglect, I'm more inclined to think declining staff care and increased bureaucracy are to blame. 

Doctors like Nunn are a credit to their hospitals for not putting up with the bull of publicity stunts at the risk of patient health.  Sure, he came across as a bit of an arsehole about it, but in the medical world, I think someone who isn't afraid to storm up to the country's leaders and berate them on camera for allowing their staff to contaminate a ward is someone who can be a good example for other doctors in the country.

1 comment:

  1. Now there is an example of a man who puts his duty of care to his patients first and foremost. See the look on Cameron's face? Hehehe. Oh dear. Even the Prime Minister can be dressed down on doctors orders.

    But on a more serious note, my mum as you may well know trained as a nurse and worked as such for many a year. In her day, Matron was in charge of her ward and she has spoken on various occasions about how if the beds weren't made to a certain standard or cleanliness not upheld there'd be hell to pay. It was nurses who looked after this, not because they were just glorified cleaners but because let's face it, they know what the standard is, and it could be very much argued and argued well that providing a sterile environment for patients is part of the care.

    And this is where bureacracy has wrecked the NHS. Doctors are taken away to become pen pushers, nurses have to perform duties that were once the doctors in some cases, and have their own pens to push. Nursing is about so much more than the day to day care of the patients as it once was. This is where care assistants and health workers come in...they have little in the way of actual medical training (I know, I was one. My formal training consisted of watching some DVD's on my first night!) and then general cleaning duties are handed out to private contractors.

    Yeah, but privatisation and competition are good for the NHS! Pah! Don't give me that twaddle.

    If someone *cough Blair cough* hadn't decided to push a 50% rate of all school leavers into University education, nursing wouldn't be seen to require a degree. My mum never had a degree, she did her job perfectly well. But who does a degree in order to become a cleaner? No one, so young nurses come out with all this wonderful stuff in their heads, and don't get me wrong they do a wonderful job, but when it comes to hygeine practise and they don't do that, oh no, aside from immediate clean ups and preparing beds, they don't clean, they're degree trained, why would they clean? That's for cleaners.

    Cleaners who use the same cloth on multiple surfaces, cleaners who use the same water throughout the hospital. Not, might I add, because they mean harm or are neglectful, but because no one ever told them otherwise. So long as it looks clean, right? That's their training! They aren't trained to upkeep a sterile environment.

    Put the nurses back in charge of their wards and back in charge of cleaning. Not to degrade them but because they know what must be done. Or, if you insist on keeping cleaners (waste of money if you ask me given my last point but never mind) at least give them special training and have them supervised by the nurses to ensure appropriate standards are upheld.

    < / my self righteous opinion >