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Open Letter to the NHS – Hygiene

Dear NHS,

I really love the wonderful things you do and all our lives would be very poor indeed without the on-going care and medical aid you give us.  However, I really get annoyed when I see reports in the newspapers about MRSA and lack of hygiene.

The reason for my annoyance comes from a regular display of practices that suggest a basic lack of understanding of simple hygiene from everyone involved.  In the last few years, for instance, I have seen a number of instances of each of the following:

  • Wearing cardigans over uniforms.
  • Wearing outdoor coats over uniforms.
  • Wearing uniforms to and from the hospital.

The idea of transfer of germs and bugs through such practices clearly escapes the grasp of those involved.  It is often impressed on visitors how important it is to wash/clean hands on entering wards and this is exactly right, but hospital staff should have much higher standards that include the right attitude towards clothing.

However, the above is nothing compared to one of the worst practices I’ve regularly seen happen – a complete disregard for how infection can be spread through the transfer from the curtains surrounding each of the beds on the wards.

Visitors constantly brush up against these curtains with their clothes, the patients touch them, everybody touches them.  Now think carefully about the main people who touch them – the nurses who attend the patients many times a day.

If they have just cleaned up a patient or re-dressed an infected wound, those nurses will push back the curtains with the soiled gloves still on their hands, transferring bacteria and the like to the curtains.

Worse still is that the next time they attend that same patient, nurses put on rubber gloves BEFORE closing the curtains, which immediately stops the gloves being sterile and risks passing on infection to the patient.  If this isn’t the cause of the majority of patient infections I’d be very surprised.

We’re all disgusted at the cut-backs enforced on the NHS by this current government, particularly when the majority of us have been paying for it through our National Insurance contributions, but this is not an excuse for a mind-set that cannot make the connections that lead to infection transfer this way.

Being in hospital is hard.  Working in hospital is hard.  But thinking about hygiene should be natural for all of us.

Please be cleaner in your thinking.

Regards,
Steve Ince
East Yorkshire

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