Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Mixed-sex - no thanks.

In 21st century Britain, where few children share a bedroom with their siblings and many homes have as many bathrooms as bedrooms, it is a terrible indictment that our 'world class healthcare' - much praised by the Labour government - should insist that sick, incapacitated and/or terminally ill people are forced into wards alongside total strangers, sometimes alongside strangers of the opposite sex.

Labour promised these mixed-sex wards would be closed but, as with many of their manifesto promises, it was nothing more than empty words. Let's hope the current lot will make it happen, but Mrs R has a feeling they'll be up against very important hospital administrators who want to retain control of their empires irrespective of the needs, or wishes, of their patients.

"What's wrong with mixed-sex hospital wards?" ... is the title of this CiF piece. The comments are, as usual, quite revealing and seem to indicate clear differences of opinion - possibly separating those who have been in-patients and those who've never been hospitalised.

Mrs R has experienced in-patient care in a mixed-sex ward, and it was horrible. She was the only female in an eight-bed area/bay. Despite pleas from both her and the rest of her family it's where she had to stay because the powers-that-be said there were no other available beds. Mrs R is more than a little convinced that her wish desperate need to escape led to her being discharged too early - swiftly followed by emergency readmission (to a different hospital further from home) less than 48 hours later.

Although Mrs R has no medical training whatsoever she is fairly sure that men and women deal with illness and incapacity differently. She does know that, if we're taken ill and taken away from our immediate family, it's bad enough having to share a room with a load of strangers, let alone total strangers of the opposite sex - with the illusion of privacy being provided only by a flimsy and rather grubby curtain with a lower edge no nearer the floor than the average kneecap.

One of the men in this particular mixed ward was an absolute gent - but was it fair that he felt the need to try to be 'decent' (in word and deed) in front of a woman who was in an adjacent bed? Was it reasonable for that long-retired man to have to sleep in the same room as Mrs Rigby, and have to discuss his medical problems with staff knowing she could hear every single word?

The other occupants of the ward? Well, umm, the least said about them the better! Man-to-man conversations are sometimes obviously very, err, mannish, and aren't really the sort of thing many women want (or need) to listen to. Oh, and there was the one who thought using the ward's communal washbasin was a clever trick, because it saved him having to walk along the corridor. The nurses never noticed, and nor did the cleaner who gave the sink a cursory wipe once a day.

These wards might have been a clever idea, once, but they were never the right thing to do. They might have saved a bit of space, the same as open-plan offices, but in the long run Mrs R is convinced that they compromise patient care and, in some cases, delay recovery.

So, she wishes the government the very best of luck in their plans to get rid of mixed-sex wards - by the end of the year.

No comments: