Time to come clean over dirty equipment

PUBLISHED: 13:45 16 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:14 06 May 2010

And it’s health staff who carry the can

And it's health staff who carry the can

GOING a bit Doctor Who for a moment, this week I have spent time imagining there is an alternative world with a Great Britain which boasts a national health service which actually does what it says it will. In this happy land, everyone has equal access to

GOING a bit Doctor Who for a moment, this week I have spent time imagining there is an alternative world with a Great Britain which boasts a national health service which actually does what it says it will.

In this happy land, everyone has equal access to free, quality healthcare. Hospitals are properly funded with clean, state-of-the art equipment, nurses are well paid, happy in their jobs and wards are adequately staffed.

Sadly, it would have to be an alternate world very far removed from our own, because clearly that's not what is happening in the real Great Britain.

What is actually happening is that the NHS is woefully under-funded. Hospital trusts around the country are struggling, and our medical staff daily try to do the best job possible in the face of continued cutbacks and a widespread lack of resources.

There must be countless examples of nurses' and doctors' battles to provide good healthcare in the face of adversity, but the case that I will find it hard to forget is that of poor Sue Hogg from Letchworth GC.

Mrs Hogg had her hip operation at the QEII in Welwyn Garden City postponed once and almost cancelled again because the equipment set aside for the surgery, was, when opened, unusable.

If it wasn't for the theatre manager getting in her car and personally driving up to Stevenage to oversee the sterilisation of a set of equipment, Mrs Hogg would have gone home without having had the operation for a second time.

For those of you wondering why the poor woman had to drive up to get the equipment from Stevenage, it is because that's where the stuff is now cleaned.

The QEII used to have its own sterile services department, as did Lister, but the two were merged in February, apparently to form a new upgraded system, based at Lister.

Upgraded my foot, I say.

How can it be upgraded when the staff trying to operate on Mrs Hogg found not one but four sets of equipment (cleaned in Stevenage) which were not suitable for use?

If that's the upgraded system, I'd hate to see what the old one was like.

As with all such cases, it is the management who make the decision and the frontline staff who are left to deal with the consequences - to tell patients their operations cannot take place.

East and North Herts NHS Trust maintains that the number of operations being cancelled is falling but clearly this is not happening quickly enough.

It was absolutely right and incredibly vigilant of the staff to spot whatever it was they saw on the equipment, but how must Mrs Hogg have felt, mentally preparing for an operation only to have it cancelled, and then almost having the same thing happen all over again?

I refuse to believe that Mrs Hogg's case is an isolated one and now surely swift, decisive action needs to be taken to resolve the situation so clean, usable equipment can await everyone who goes in for an operation.

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