Helen Martin: ERI’s bosses still not getting the message

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WE know the health service in both ­Scotland and ­England is creaking and failing under pressure of demands and budgets.

The fact that not one of Scotland’s health boards managed to hit all the targets set for waiting times is ­worrying, possibly terrifying if you are seriously ill and waiting for a ­crucial appointment.

But whether that’s down to over-optimistic targets set by the government or senior managers who have no real clinical experience, or as has been suggested, an unbearable workload on admin staff which then brings then rest of the system crashing down, remains to be seen. The complexities of running the NHS, everything from computer systems to missed appointments, to the expense and speed of lab-testing, not to mention shortage of nurses or surgeons in some specialities, means everyone blames everyone else and has their own theories about how to fix it.

But some things really are simple and basic and have no excuse for ­failure. And hygiene is one of them. At least we have not, so far, had to contend with a GP’s ­surgery ­treatment room crawling with ­maggots as was reported by the ­English inspectorate last week.

Heaven knows what we might find if we started to inspect surgeries up here. Hospitals are a different matter.

I think I can speak on behalf of most of the citizens of this city and its environs when I say we have given the ERI enough chances to clean up its act.

Between scandals of elderly ­patients being badly treated and left in soiled linen, to filth and contamination on mattresses, commodes and beds, not to mention the basic ­failing to ensure medical students wash their hands ­properly and frequently, some aspects of this nightmare of a hospital belong in a Dickens novel or a battleground MASH unit.

The latest episode involved a woman in labour who was put on a bed stained with rivulets of blood from a previous patient in a triage room. Back came the usual ineffective management platitudes from NHS Lothian’s nurse director Sarah Ballard-Smith. Failed to reach usual standards we expect blah blah, ­apologise for any distress blah blah, investigation blah blah.

Inspectors have already dished the dirt on the ERI. Its hygiene would be woeful for the guest room of a normal suburban house let alone a hospital where disinfection and cleanliness is fundamental. There’s no time, or excuse, for tippy-toeing around this. As any old-fashioned nurse will tell you, it was somebody’s job to make sure that bed was clean. Maybe a cleaner, maybe a cleaner’s manager, maybe the outsourced firm that employed both of them, perhaps the nurse in charge of the department, perhaps even Ms Ballard-Smith herself. And whoever was directly or ultimately responsible should be sacked. In the US you can bet your bottom dollar the hospital would also be sued for causing distress. A fine of a few thousand pounds for every incident may work wonders on the observational skills and sense of responsibility of the ERI’s heretofore lacklustre management.

For richer or poorer, it’s common sense

A ROMANTIC I am not. I have never understood the concept of spending thousands on a wedding dress that doesn’t even need to be durable because it will only be worn once. Better to have a cheap one so that when you put your heel through it, the groom sloshes red wine on it, or the photographer makes you stand in a mud hole, you can laugh it off rather than be carried off in hysterics by an ambulance.

Speaking of which, enter the British Red Cross which has opened a charity wedding boutique in Stockbridge. Second-hand wedding dresses, some by top designers, will cost as little as £200.

It just shows the kind of inspired, smart, innovative, commercial thinking that goes into charities and their shops nowadays. There must be dozens of entrepreneurs in Edinburgh kicking themselves for not having got there first with what must be the ideal recycling, retail, money-making opportunity in a recession.

Lidl bit different

I’M puzzled by Asda and Morrisons warning that prices in Scotland would rise were the country to become independent.

Lidl and Aldi trade in countries all over Europe with different currencies, landscapes and taxation systems and still manage to be cheaper than anyone else.

Are their organisations and distribution networks so vastly superior? Or are they just less greedy and content to stay out of politics?

THE Jawbone arch on the Meadows is one of those iconic “monuments” so I can understand Councillor Cameron Rose’s view that although it now poses a risk to to passers-by, as a piece of Meadows history it should be removed, restored and replaced.

There is however another view, that it is a reminder of the unpleasant and now largely condemned industry of whaling on the Scottish east coast. The irony is that the fight to stop whaling worldwide still goes on.

And unless we succeed, grizzly arches like this might be all we have left of these majestic sea mammals.