What is Too Posh to Wash?

Whether the quote is correctly attributed I not sure, but Julia Manning who is chair of the think tank 2020 Health is said to have published a report by the name of Too Posh to Wash? In it she suggests that each patient’s family members and friends should be legally required to take care of said patient’s toileting and cleaning and feeding.

Some years ago the same phrase was used to describe nurses who had gone through university training who believed themselves to be “above” washing their patients. But now it seems to be applying to a suggestion that all nurses are too busy to undertake such care.

This has a context which I understand. I recently lost my brother who was hospitalised for several months in several different hospitals. Too often I observed that these tasks were not performed consistently by the either nursing staff or care staff, who each seemed to be grossly overloaded by their other tasks. More than that they were all physically exhausted or stressed or both.

As individuals they did not have the time to feed the patients who by definition of their ailments were unable to undertake their own feeding. And by the same logic these people could not clean nor toilet themselves. Yet that is what they were mostly left to do much of the time.

Of course when I was there I was able to help my brother, but often when I arrived I found that he had been left for hours with food and drink left untouched because it had been placed out of his reach. When he needed to go to the loo he could not reach the buzzer because it had been left out of his reach. On one occasion I spoke to him on his mobile phone and I ended up phoning the ward to get him seen to.

I can only conclude from what I saw over those months that the problem was down to budgetary constraints. Many of the staff I met did not work directly for the hospitals, they came from agencies. This must be expensive. So why is this?

I managed IT projects for many years and the only reason I hired third party staff was for two reasons. The first was to add value to me team short term, to bring in skills we needed for a specific task. The other was a longer term need when I could not recruit staff. As an act of desperation.

The NHS situation must be the latter. The NHS management is desperate. There are just too many NHS managers with objectives that have been skewed away from caring for the patients to caring for the budgets. They are not helped by poor Government and poor governance. We have too few employed nurses and there should not be a need for agency nurses. They should be re-employed by the NHS.

Remember too that nurses are trained to recognise complications such as pressure sores and respiratory problems and other medical indicators which most of us are not. But it is a great way of introducing nasty bugs from the external environment.

So I believe that Julia Manning and 2020 Health should redirect their focus on the near environment and budget of the NHS itself and not target the patients’ families and friends.


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