Our NHS – Health & Safety #5


If you have never worked in the NHS or been an inpatient in a UK hospital you may well not be familiar with the very common pheonmenon of transmutation.

People who, to all intents & purposes are as normal as anyone ever is in the real world; and I’m not just referring to patients here folks, suddenly change!

In the way back when, as I entered the world of nursing & for the first time donned my “uniform”, I became one of the transmutated, I was no longer “just” Holly Berry, I was Holly Berry Learner Nurse & the uniform was a symbol of my status & responsibilities.

uniformfittingAt the time (late 1980’s), the more typical vision of the nurse  had already been replaced with a more utilitarian affair than my predecessors: still a dress though.   We still had to wear stupid paper hats with stripes on denoting our length of experience- which I presume helped busy, imperious doctors, senior nurses & managers see at a glance who the useless worms were & avoid them rather than waste precious time.  Nowadays where I work, a uniform uniform has eliminated the last vestigies of any sign that the wearer is a nurse.

Arguably, the wearer is more comfortable & flexible in this latest version (reducing restriction which could & did cause injuries), the hats, puff sleeves, belts, buckles & badges are gone & for people with very fragile skin (patients) this is indeed much safer (tears in delicate skin from pointy buckles were common…). welsh_nurses_spec

Only drawback is that:  a) You have no idea how much experience the wearer has had – clue the Navy version means they have been around the block a few times.

b) surgeons & asnesthetists & technicians wear similar pjs, so if you keep calling for a nurse & they ignore you, chances are they aren’t a nurse or are pretending not to be.

There still remain places in the NHS where the person who is going to be “the patient” must don a different outfit, but a uniform nevertheless! Generally this will be “nightwear” which you will be expected to wear 24/7, along with the mandatory slippers, optional dressing gown & statuory arm-bands, this apparell is a great way to quickly differentiate between staff & patients. *

pjAs the possesor one emergency nightdress (so that if we are away I can wear it in the event of fire),  I had absolutely no intention of changing into nightwear as soon as I arrived or indeed when I went to bed (so another blessing having the privacy of Room 101). The staff took it very well when I was encouraged to unpack & subsequently put on my own nightie, I explained that I wasn’t unpacking because I wasnt intending to stay long enough & that I don’t possess nightclothes. So in my day-clothes,hoodie & outdoor shoes I was free to roam the hospital the evening before my surgery (I did tell them when I left & returned: health & safety Fire drills etc).


I mentioned in a previous # the patient lockers provided for storing medication & valuables. Originally they were introduced as a way of enabling people who were capable of taking their own medication without supervision to do so independently, thus maintaining their adult independence. This system known as POMs or PODs (patient’s own medication) & in fact, in the part of the UK in which I live a much respected & valued colleague actually undertook a travel scholarship to introduce the system to our hospitals decades ago now. It’s a brilliant scheme, maintaining an adult identity & independence as well as benefitting busy staff by “freeing” time on the “drugs round” to assist those who need help with medications. You would think it would be well embeded & all the rage by now wouldn’t you?

Well, yes you would, but no it isn’t. As requested I took my medication with me (hint always do this because there may be delays in getting the correct drugs from pharmacy & any Doctor will tell you that simply saying “I take a little white round one-um not sure what it is for”, is at the very least unhelpful! ).  When I announced that I intended to be a POMs patient, I was told that “they dont really do that on here”, followed by a sort of explanation about safety & pain relief drugs, this is interesting as there’s a movement towards enabling people with cancer who are often on strong & regular pain medications to use POMs !(obviously, they are somehow different to other people.) .

While I fully appreciate when one is out of one’s tree post surgery, self medicating is not a safe option; Homer_Simpson___Brain_Scan__RE_by_Dz2 I still believe that I have as much common-sense & basic intelligence to be “safe” with all prescribed medication in the normal scheme of things!

The reduction of adults to child status in hospital is not any particular parties’ “fault”. Some people it must be said, go into hospital & fully embrace the patient mode: happy to defer decisions to everyone else & expecting to be “looked after”, as that is after all what the staff are paid for. I recall a long time ago being incredulous as someone in their 50’s who had us running around frantically to make sure they were comfortable (including pouring water into their cup regularly), because they couldn’t manage it: got up from their chair, walked around their bed to pick a bottle of squash left by a relative & then “buzzed” me to ask me to undo the bottle & make them a drink. Grrr.

Similarly, I’ve cringed as colleagues have spoken to patients as if they are five & have the intelligence of a concussed duck.  beakerBut the thing about both these examples is, that the people engaging in these behaviours somehow  accept them, yes they may be pissed off or insulted, but they don’t or won’t say anything and until they do the Status Quo will prevail! 

Which brings me neatly on to my final Health & Safety observation you’ll be relieved to hear.

All the staff on the Ward were rightly consumed with encouraging people who could to drink as much as possible. Great. It’s really important as a “rule” of life, but more so when we are sick etc.  I was kept well supplied with jugs of water it must be said. Only thing is I am more of a hot beverage type & while the staff very kindly loaned me a mug (always belonging to someone who wasn’t on duty at the time: I remember doing this myself!), I wasn’t allowed to go into the kitchen to make my own, but had to ask busy staff to do it for me?!?!. Apparently, after walking through the grand entrance of St Trinians, I had suddenly become incapable of handling hot water safely. Ok. There may be other reasonable & legitimate reasons for this practice, but I wasn’t provided with any of those: just that, I might scald myself…

So I propose that a drinks station is set up in the Day Room so that patients can help themselves & others who aren’t able to do it on their own for some reason. This would have two benefits 1) It would ensure that people are better hydrated & not dependent on the tea lady or a busy member of staff doing it for them and get drinks as they want. 2) It would enourage mobility & excercise for people to be able to stroll up to the day room to make a drink. Oh & before anyone says “yes, but what about spillages & the risk of slipping” , I’d be more than happy to donate some of those thermal cups with lids & a couple of small trays to the cause!

That’s me done for now! Take Care


 * The fact that generally people don’t wear their nightwear out & about in public, would you think elicit concerned enquiries when they are seen wandering along a road in the pouring rain & I am always shocked & astounded when, patients “abscond” & manage to get on a bus or walk home without anyone asking if they are ok! Hey ho.

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