Lord Mancroft is under fire in many of today’s newspapers (see The Times and Daily Mail) for controversial remarks about certain nurses that were responsible for his care during a time he spent in hospital. But many will sympathise with his reflections on his NHS experience. He found the hospital very dirty and noone appeared to be in charge of his ward. He also watches a man die alone.
In the first part of his speech Lord Mancroft talked about his horrendous experiences in one unnamed NHS hospital:
Hospital cleansiness: "When I was taken ill, I was taken to an accident and emergency department in a hospital not in London but in the West Country. I can tell your Lordships only that it is a miracle that I am still alive. It was exactly as the noble Baroness described the hospital down in Maidstone in Kent. I will not tell your Lordships which hospital I was in, but the wards were filthy. Underneath the bed next to me was a piece of dirty cotton wool, and there it remained for seven days; the ward was never cleaned. It was a gastroenterology ward, with lots of people with very unpleasant infectious diseases. The ward, the tables, the beds and the bathrooms were not cleaned. I was extremely infectious at that time and no precautions were taken with me at all. The staff were furious when my wife wanted my bed cleaned when it clearly needed cleaning. I was just lying there, a pathetic person. It was appalling."
The slipshod and lazy nurses: "The nurses, who probably are the most important people in this complex area, were what I would describe as an accurate reflection of many young women in Britain today. What do I mean by that? I shall now break your Lordships’ rules and read the next bit, because I thought very hard before I wrote it. The nurses who looked after me—not all of them; we should never generalise and there were one or two wonderful ones—were mostly grubby, with dirty fingernails and hair. They were slipshod, lazy and, worst of all, drunken and promiscuous. How do I know that? If you are a patient, lying in a bed and being nursed from either side, the nurses talk across you as if you are not there. I know exactly what they got up to the night before. I know how much they drank and what they were planning to do the next night, and it was pretty horrifying."
Noone was in charge of the ward: "My bed was next door to the nurses’ station, so you could see how the whole place was being run. Actually, you could not: I have seen lots of things being run, but after a week, I could not tell you who was in charge. I had absolutely no idea who was telling who to do what. My view is that nobody was telling anybody."
A man who died alone: "The man opposite me was dying. I imagine he died
two or three days after I left. I do not know what he was dying of
because he was not doing a lot of talking. But I do know that he
virtually died alone. The nurses thought that he was a nuisance. They
changed his bottle, gave him his pills, occasionally fed him and
propped him up. But basically this man died alone in a British hospital
in the 21st century, and I had to watch him do it, which was pretty
Lord Mancroft then moved to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital where he had a very different experience:
"The nurses, of every nationality, size, shape and colour, were
wonderful. I was discharged from the country hospital. When I arrived
in London I had two operations in 24 hours. I am quite certain—as were
all the staff, although they would not say it—that if I had not had
them I would have died. The hospital in London was wonderful. The
nurses were marvellous. I do not know how, but it worked like
clockwork. It was spotlessly clean. It was everything that it should be
or could be anywhere."
The Tory peer also makes strong remarks about the unnecessary complexity of dispensing and of the volume of paperwork in hospital:
Queuing at the chemist: "Dispensing drugs is really simple. You and I call it retailing. Every
week when I get my drugs, I watch them doing it and it takes 40
minutes. Over the road, Waitrose, the supermarket, is doing exactly the
same thing really well, so why cannot these people do it? It is a
shambles. It takes 40 minutes to get a drug which you can see sitting
on the shelf. Why is that?"
Endless paperwork: "Everywhere is swamped with paper. Everyone asks the
same questions and fills in forms. Every department is covered in
completely pointless paper. Last week, I saw one of my consultants. As
I was leaving, he said, “By the way, what do you weigh”? I said, “What
on earth do you mean, what do I weigh? Why do you want to know”? He
said, “I do not want to know, but I’ve got to tick the box on this form
or they will make you come for another appointment and weigh you. I run
an outside clinic twice a week and 60 of my patients twice a week are
weighed. I don’t care what they weigh. They don’t care what they weigh.
But the form says that we have to weigh them”. How ridiculous is that?"
And in conclusion:
"There will always be good and bad. In Britain at the moment there is
very little that is good enough and too much that is too bad. This
Government came in 10 years ago to sort this situation out. It has not
been sorted out. It is internationally embarrassing and humiliating
that a country of this size and wealth should produce a service which
is so horrible."