Monday, 6 August 2007

Hi-De-Hi Doctors

How often do you wash your hands? Several times every day, I should imagine. Let's assume that you wash them just three times every day. That's 21 times a week, 90 times in a 30-day month and 1095 times every year. By the time you reach the age of 25, that's 27,375 hand washes - ok, I know, kids aren't so good at washing their hands. So, for the sake of argument, lets forget the first 5 years - by the age of 25, at three washes a day with none at all in the first 5 years, that's 21,900 hand washes.

Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that, after 21,900 attempts, even the most intellectually challenged hand washers might have mastered the technique. Certainly, you might imagine that highly trained medical staff, to whom we are happy to entrust our lives, would be fully alongside the basic idea of washing their hands.

Sadly, in Worcester at least, this doesn't appear to be the case. According to this mind boggling article from Channel 4 News, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust wants to combat hospital infections by installing loudspeakers to play messages reminding staff to wash their hands.

When staff members wash their hands, a pre-recorded message will play, which will remind them what to do.

Eh? You mean they don't already know?? I fully appreciate that doctors and nurses like to think they're very busy people, and, of course, they can't be expected to remember everything. But if they really can't recall how to wash their hands then something is very, very wrong.

Surely, they will have been told of the importance of hygiene at medical school? Have they really managed to go through years of training, and then on to employment in the NHS, without knowing how to wash their hands? If so, wouldn't you think these allegedly intelligent people would have had sufficient initiative to go and find out? No wonder MRSA and other hospital acquired infections are rife in our hospitals!

Indeed, the situation is apparently so grave that these motion-detecting speakers are being paid for out of Government funding set up to combat hospital acquired infections. I wonder if the budget will stretch to include hiring Ruth Madock to record the messages:

" Hi de Hi Doctors!
It's time to wash those hands again.
Now, remember how we do this...
Turn on that tap, wet those hands, and squeeze out some soap.
VERY GOOD, now scrub, scrub scrub.

Let's clean off those nasty bugs.
Well done. Now, remember...
Read your name badge so you know who you are...
Then on to the next patient.

See you soon, Doctor. Hi de Hi!"

Of course, these oh-so-useful devices aren't just to remind forgetful medics how to wash their hands. Oh, no. They can also be used to speak ward visiting times, or so it is claimed, although the volume will need to be turned right down so the constant repetition doesn't drive staff and patients any more nuts than they are already.

It seems to me that this is a solution looking for a problem. Every hospital ward that I have ever visited - and that's a lot of wards - has had a perfectly serviceable notice board, with visiting times pinned on it in LARGE letters. Why would a recorded message be any better? I suppose it might help the blind and those who can't read, but then, how the hell would they find their own way to the ward in the first place? And what about deaf visitors? They won't be able to hear it at all, particularly if the volume is low.

Come on, guys, get a grip. If you really want to fight MRSA etc, quit buggering about with these toys and invest in a few more cleaners. The NHS in Worcester has more than a few failings to make up for, and I don't think recorded messages are going to go very far towards that objective. Get real.

Billy Seggars.

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