Sunday, July 04, 2004

"Nursing Is Not What It Used To Be"

Claire Rayner, agony aunt, former nurse and president of the charity the Patients Association, explains why NHS hospitals are too dangerous for elderly people - because of the appalling standards of hygiene which prevail.

Keeping the wards clean was once the responsibility of nurses, but they're above that kind of menial stuff nowadays. As a result the government's own Health Protection Agency estimates that 20,000 people a year are dying unneccessarily.

Rayner, whose association campaigns for better NHS care, said she was embarrassed about her use of private care because she had devoted her life to the NHS, as both a nurse and a patients’ advocate. But poor nursing care leading to filthy wards and the spread of infection had forced her to turn to private hospitals and nurses.

“I decided to leave the hospital partly because nursing is not what it used to be. I saw the dust pile up in the corners of the wards. The nurses were so untidy. I saw things that horrified me.”

Rayner said hospitals would be able to fight MRSA only when staff learnt basic rules of hygiene. “When I was a young nurse we changed our uniforms daily. If there was a spot on our aprons we would put on a fresh one,” she said.

“All nurses would think it was their responsibility to make sure the loos and the sluice rooms were pristine. Matrons used to rule with a rod of iron to keep standards up.”

Last week the government’s Health Protection Agency estimated that 100,000 patients a year were infected by hospital superbugs, with up to 20,000 dying as a result.

Over the past decade there has been a 14-fold increase in hospital infections. The agency blamed overcrowding in hospitals, over-use of beds to increase throughput and overworked staff neglecting basic hygiene.

See also here (hospital cleaning) and here (nursing ethos).

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