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Call me by my name!

By Mike Cunningham On October 13th, 2011

Readers of the damning CQC report into patient care in hospitals do not need me to state that this report is neither news, nor fresh. Individual hospital cases, where people have died or suffered terrible neglect, have been reported upon for years; and every time, every case, every distraught relative has been re-assured, ‘we have learned lessons’. And that, folks, is the Standard Response, straight out of both the NHS and Government handbooks.

“Don’t worry, things are getting better!” One can almost see the appropriate NHS Trust executive or hospital administrator flicking over the pages of a large loose-leaf folder to find and state the appropriate, approved, and useless response to be given out via the waiting microphones and cameras to a despondent Nation.

The ‘degree-qualified’ nurses who are too intent upon their tasks, whether to hand out drugs and potions from a carefully-monitored prescriptions list to checking temperatures and blood pressures, to glance at the PERSON in the bed and discover that the Patient has been trying to get a drink of water for half-an-hour or more. The unqualified and untrained ‘Care assistants’ who are employed to do the ‘scut work’ which the Nurses are now too grand to do, are themselves working to a schedule which blanks out any mention of the fact that the truly important people on the wards are ignored. Because the lists, the routines, the ‘tick-boxes’ must be filled in, they are oblivious to the fact that the Patients, the reason for their existence and employment, are trying, and usually failing, to get their attention.

To amend this disgraceful state of affairs will not be easy, because it demands change which is almost impossible, in these days of what has become ‘jobs for life’. The NHS can start with one small task, right across every hospital, ward and A&E desk. They should be required to address the patient either as Mr. or Mrs. ‘Everyman’, or Sir or Madam; every time that patient is spoken to. Never mind the familiarity of a first name; ignore the fact that the Nurse, or Doctor, has seen and spoken to that patient maybe fifty times. Every time they speak, they must remember that the man or woman in that bed is an individual, with the automatic right to civility and respect. The supine form in the bed is not an interesting case, or a problem to be solved; the person in that bed, upon that ward is, in fact, their employer!


2 Responses to “Call me by my name!”

  1. It is only a little thing but the way a patient is addressed sets the relationship between the staff member and the patient. I would suggest that a formal address sets this relationship on a professional level. So what has basically gone wrong? Medicine in all its guises has become more complex and does need the attention of degree qualified nurses. However, I would suggest that many of the nursing tasks from yesteryear still remain and that a concentration on these basic tasks by women and men who are proud to be called nurses is germaine. Now we used to have these people employed, they were called enrolled nurses and they did a very good job. Unfortunately the General Nursing Council and the RCN set their sights on an all degree profession. In this I think they lost the plot and they have yet to find it once more.

  2. When my late mother-in-law was ill in hospital, one day when we were visiting I heard one nurse saying to another “You have to shout at that lady there to get her attention as she’s very deaf”
    Now one thing that wasn’t wrong with my mother-in-law was her hearing! The problem was the sign over her bed which said “Alice”. It may have been her first name but she’d been known for seventy plus years by her second name, Elsie, and simply didn’t respond because she thought the nurses were talking to someone else! Problem solved with a marker pen, wish all the NHS problems could be solved as easily.

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