into the car park machine. That’s why the Daily Express crusade to force NHS trusts to give patients a fair deal was so vitally important and why Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted so swiftly to impose new rules that will mean free parking for the seriously ill.
Now he needs to get tough in hospital kitchens because the standard of food served on many wards is deplorably low. In many cases the food’s so bad that patients are actually grateful the portion sizes are tiny.
A healthy, nutritious meal is a vital part of getting well and looking forward to a tasty lunch or dinner does wonders for a patient’s mood. Happy patients really do feel better quicker.
Yesterday for the first time an NHS website published a league table of healthy food choices for hospitals following a 12-month review led by the charity Age UK. So we’re making progress.
Another little thing that makes a big difference is being able to communicate easily with the nurse or doctor. The number of nurses from the EU has doubled in the past four years to almost 21,000 but incredibly EU laws mean the nursing watchdog is banned from testing how well they can speak English because some Brussels gauleiter has decreed it would impinge on their freedom of movement. No, I don’t get it either.
Hospitals are no place for pettifogging rules. Surely the safety and wellbeing of patients should be the first priority, not whether Mademoiselle Dubois or Fraulein Schmidt are put out because they can’t speak our lingo and have to work in their own countries.
In my extensive experience of the NHS – with two sons who play rugby the family joke is that we should have a season ticket to A&E – the biggest problems for patients are caused by rules that seem designed solely for the benefit of bureaucrats.
When my daughter needed dental treatment at a hospital, she couldn’t keep one appointment because it clashed with a
‘We need to get tough
on hospital food’
GCSE exam. Then we discovered her new appointment clashed with another exam – but the rules said her appointment couldn’t be rearranged a second time: she’d have to be referred again by her dentist.
Luckily, the kind lady at reception bent the rules at the risk of getting a ticking off from her supervisor and we were so grateful we wrote a letter to the hospital praising her in case she faced disciplinary action.
WHEN my elder son fractured his skull I was overwhelmed by the kindness shown by the nurses towards my shocked wife and me. Cups of tea were swiftly made and when the staff found out we’d driven three hours to get to the hospital, sandwiches and fruit miraculously appeared.
Those are the little touches that make the NHS such a marvel. You’ve probably seen them too: the nurse who combs your hair before visiting time; the porter whose friendly chat puts you at ease as he wheels you down for your operation; the cleaner who smiles as she mops round your bed; the doctors who talk to you, not about you, as they do their rounds and make you feel like a person, not a statistic.
Someone once said that true greatness consists of being great in little things. We should hang that quotation in every ward, waiting room and office in the NHS.
LUNCH BREAK: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt helps out in a hospital kitchen