Helen Martin: Blame the ‘bad’ patient, not ERI

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AT least 70 per cent of people who turn up at A&E shouldn’t even be there – so said one NHS ­employee following the ERI’s ­unenviable league position as one of Scotland’s worst hospitals at meeting the target of seeing each A&E patient within four hours.

Not normally one to stick up for the blighted hospital, I’d wager the situation is not solely, or even mostly, of their making.

Many years ago my nephew, now a GP, was working overnight emergency at the Sick Kids and grabbing a much-needed snooze when, in the wee small hours, a couple came in with their primary aged child who had stood on a drawing pin.

There was a tiny puncture wound. The child was not in pain, nor did he have a fever. When my nephew asked when it happened, they replied “11am this morning”.

Hospitals are understanding of worried mothers and fathers who have heard dreadful stories of ­children dying from undiagnosed meningitis and who need reassurance in the face of unusual symptoms

But it’s hard to fathom how even a concerned parent would consider a pin prick worthy of A&E when a competent pharmacist could have ­reassured them 16 hours earlier that it would heal itself or offer to sell them a sticking plaster.

As far as the ERI is concerned, any rational person would rather avoid it at all costs if they could hang on to see their GP the following day.

A&E is for people who have serious medical emergencies and are in ­severe pain, in the grip of a potentially fatal asthma attack, victims of beatings, stabbings or car crashes, blood-letting accidents, having a suspected heart attack. It’s not a pleasant place to be, let alone the place to go with a minor injury or ­ailment, delaying treatment for those who urgently need it.

Admittedly there is a risk in asking people to diagnose the severity of their own condition, or discouraging them from seeking medical advice. But if we can devote time in schools to classes on the environment, inclusion, healthy eating, sexual equality and awareness, multiculturalism, diversity, citizenship, and how to protect ourselves online, surely we can squeeze in a bit of time on preventing abuse of medical services by outlining the responsibilities of chemists, NHS 24, GPs and A&E? GP surgeries aren’t blameless, demanding patients book appointments days in advance, ­presumably with the aid of a crystal ball, rather than be seen when they are actually ill at a wait-your-turn open surgery.

That inevitably adds to A&E queues because, useful though pharmacies and NHS 24 are, sick people, and especially parents with sick ­children, want to see a doctor.

And doctors, whether in GP ­surgeries or casualty, want to help patients. But they all struggle with the “worried well” who don’t need treatment at all or those who consider their bad cold, stiff back, minor cut or one-day-old fever really counts as an accident or emergency.

Targets are at best, blunt ­instruments of ­politicians or management. And it’s hard – if not diplomatically ­impossible – for A&E staff to turn people away.

So in this instance, let’s give the ERI a break and blame the 70 per cent of patients who should never have been there in the first place.

Morrison’s big ad is just banal

THERE may well be a bit of snobbery about the huge Morrison’s banner which other retailers say is not appropriate for George Street’s well-heeled image. Would M&S, Waitrose or Harvey Nicks have been more welcome?

The company says it had permission for the banner, though the council disagrees.

All that aside, what offends me about the debacle is inaccuracy and sales-speil flannel. On scaffolding above Hobbs, it says “I’M your new cheaper Morrison’s” which to any sensible person would suggest a new store is coming there. It’s not.

Then there’s the company statement: “With seven stores in Edinburgh, Morrison’s has a significant retail footprint in Scotland’s capital city.

“We wanted to place a big, bold advert in the heart of the city to make sure our customers are aware of our fantastic, new, cheaper prices.”

What’s wrong with that? “Fantastic” literally means “of fantasy” which I’m sure is not what they meant.

They wouldn’t be advertising higher prices, would they? “Significant retail footprint” is just jargon repetition of having seven stores in the city and people here are well aware it is the Capital. “Our” customers ?

They’ll see the price displays in store anyway. How about saving the pointless banner costs and cutting prices even further?

Ask about the meat you buy

VETS and animal welfare bodies say un-stunned ritual halal and kosher slaughter causes unnecessary suffering. Food chains and supermarkets sell it unlabelled as “ordinary” meat (particularly New Zealand lamb). So ask.

If you don’t want it, don’t buy it.


ACCORDING to the latest figures, one in 20 people over the age of 65 have dementia. So there are two ways of looking at the policy of raising retirement age. On the upside, perhaps working longer will help keep the condition at bay. On the downside, there’s no proof of that and it’s equally likely that more people will be made to work until their faculties desert them, and they’ll miss out on work-free retirement altogether.