Makes you want to laugh doesn’t it? There are the PM and his deputy in hospital, interviewing a patient. Cameras all around, a security team too. Heh Heh! In comes the Consultant who screams ‘I won’t have it! Get out. Why do you think we all have to dress like this! I won’t have it! Get out!’ Maybe he’s not in the running for a knighthood now.
Well, I’ll tell you what it was all about really.
Hospital doctors have been forced to abandon formal dress in suits for a short-sleeved, no tie approach to supposedly reduce the chance of infection on out clothes. When I asked the Bacteriologist at the Department of Health, who evolved the concept, what the evidence base was for using hand-alcohol wash every time you enter the ward, he replied that the reduction of infection mirrored the use of the alcohol hand-rub. He seemed to misunderstand that in an environment where infection was already falling the ‘evidence’ he cited is not evidence at all. No statistical support for the enormous expense, because it is so multi-factorial that it is impossible to study with any accuracy. Not that I’m against it, but our infection rates in Neurosurgery remain unchanged. We didn’t have much infection anyway. It brooked a lot of resentment in the Consultants. Maybe we’re an arrogant lot.
The dress code is even more interesting. So your jacket may harbour Staphylococci (a skin bacterium). Take your jacket off when you enter the ward. You might spread infection when you move from one bedside to another if you don’t. OK I take off my jacket. What next. Should I remove my trousers too? No, one nurse said, you can’t. OK, says I, maybe we should all take off all our clothes and do the ‘Naked Doctor’ thing. There is no evidence at all that removing more and more clothes makes a jot of difference to the incidence of infection. Hygiene is vital however. We’ve know this since the nineteenth century. All my professional life, I’ve used no-touch technique and hand washing between patients. I don’t need these amateurs to tell me to do it. The reason for the resentment and the outburst shown on TV is the pure frustration at the insulting insinuation that doctors know less about spread and control of infection that the twits who want to bring unnecessary changes to working practices. I agree with the irate Consultant basically – get out of my ward if you can’t behave the way we are forced to.
So in comes a camera team complete with security men. They are standing in a small ward without adopting the dress code forced on us all in the NHS. Is it surprising it caused a Consultant to erupt? He was venting his frustration at the fact that politicians and their teams seem to think they are so important they need not even consider rules which we mere mortals have to comply with. OK that’s a bit strong. It was probably because one of them had a firearm under his jacket and the other didn’t know how to behave in hospital. Mea culpa.
My final grin was that the last suited guy to leave the ward on camera, obviously has a baby at home. There were vomit stains on the back of his left shoulder – a sure sign both of fatherhood, and of dubious hygiene!