Comment: ‘Failures are a symptom of deeper issues’

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poor hygiene in our hospitals is an issue that simply won’t go away. It is not just a problem at the Royal Infirmary, where hygiene was described last month as “very poor” following an unannounced inspection.

In recent weeks, standards of cleanliness at two other major hospitals, Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary and the Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, have also been severely criticised by inspectors.

The litany of complaints has a familiar ring in many cases with blood-stained beds, like the one offered to Garry Fraser’s partner, Angie Stewart, at the ERI, mentioned time and again.

It makes for particularly depressing reading when you think about how long these problems have been known about. We have been talking for years about getting back to basics with thorough cleaning regimes on the wards and proper handwashing by staff and visitors.

Mr Fraser, who complained to NHS Lothian about his partner’s treatment at the ERI, is right on many points.

He is right to point out that we should be “grateful and humble” for the incredible service that we normally receive from the health service and not take it for granted.

He is also right to demand better than such basic failures – and to highlight the problem of ”overworked and overtired” staff.

The alarm bells have been ringing on this point for some time. A recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing suggested the majority of nurses felt the NHS in Scotland was getting by only on their “goodwill” and that more staff were “urgenlty” needed.

We can take some reassurance from the fact that unannounced inspections are putting these problems firmly under the spotlight. But these hygiene failures are surely just a sympton of deeper problems within our health service that needs more radical action to solve than another handwashing or ward-cleaning initiative.