The story today of the level of carelessness in the crucial matter of the sterilisation of surgical equipment emanating from the pan-Glasgow decontamination unit at Cowlairs, is simply numbing.
To hear surgeons talk of often having to go through three packets of theatre equipment returned from this facility as ready for use, before finding a safely usable one, is a matter than cannot be left there.
It is no use to hear a Director of Glasgow and Clyde NHS talk tonight of improvements already in place, and reassuring the sick and worried public that all will now be well.
This simply cannot be correct – cannot be correct.
The complaining surgeons, from Gartnavel Hospital – but they will be everywhere, seeing operations cancelled for lack of surgical instruments that are clean and safe to use on patients, have made it clear that their previous complaints achieved no improvement whatsoever in the performance of this critical unit.
Any unit with a culture SO disgracefully slack, in its practices and in its attitudes absolutely cannot be bettered over night by a pep talk and a PR attempt.
This situation needs a root and branch assault on fundamental matters like responsibility; training; constant supervision; clean premises, equipment and working practices.
The filthy, rusting gate at Cowlairs itself spoke volumes for what does not go on inside it.
This situation needs a ‘one-strike and you’re out’ philosophy for staff at all levels, in a service so centrally mission-critical for surviving hospitalisation.
By coincidence and on this very matter of surviving hospitalisation, we learned a couple of days ago of the experience of a patient from Argyll having major surgery in a Glasgow hospital
This patient was undergoing the removal of an organ one can survive without – and left hospital to go home the day after surgery.
This seemingly precipitate self-discharge was on the urgent advice of the consultant surgeon himself.
He told the patient the morning after surgery that the best advice he could give was, if it seemed at all feasible, to get out of hospital as soon as possible after the operation – to avoid post-operative hospital acquired infection.
The patient reported feeling that one more day in hospital would be helpful.
The surgeon again emphasised that if it was at all possible, the best thing would be to go without delay.
The end of this story was that the surgeon’s advice was taken and the patient is now feeling well on the way to recovery.
But what does this say about the real state of our NHS?
This is a cow that has been left sacred for far too long and the reality must be confronted without delay.
It is not a matter of funding. The NHS is well funded. It is a matter of a sick culture where the most basic standards and practices of hygiene and of care for patients are routinely ignored at all levels and in all places – and now we know this includes even the operating theatres.
The NHS is disorganised, complacent, unprofessional, uncaring, dirty and frankly, lazy. There is no evidence of consistent teamwork or of a sense of pride in delivering the best.
This must now stop. It has gone far too far already and people are literally dying because of it.
Why don’t we take a single hospital and drive – mercilessly – every attitude, routine, system, practice and person to be the best – until it works as it should and can then serve as a template, put into effect with relentless and persistent scrutiny at all levels and with no second chance after any failure, regardless of seniority?