Fam­i­lies wash loved ones as hospi­tal staff stretched


FAM­I­LIES are wash­ing their own rel­a­tives and bring­ing in blan­kets to help over­stretched nurses amid a surge in flu cases, it has been claimed.

One pa­tient told The Her­ald’s sis­ter pa­per, the Evening Times, that rel­a­tives were com­ing in specif­i­cally to help bathe fam­ily mem­bers at the Lang­lands unit at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Glas­gow, which treats el­derly pa­tients, “be­cause the nurses are rushed off their feet”.

It comes as the lat­est fig­ures show flu rates have quadru­pled in Scot­land com­pared with last year and this week 18-year-old Bethany Walker from Ap­ple­cross in the High­lands, died af­ter con­tract­ing the bug.

One pa­tient said: “Rel­a­tives are com­ing in to help some of them get washed in the bath- rooms and then go­ing home again. The rel­a­tives have come in to do it and then they are go­ing home. I don’t have any fe­male rel­a­tives so the nurses are wash­ing me. The nurses are rushed off their feet.”

Else­where in the city, pa­tients are said to have been forced to ask rel­a­tives to bring in blan­kets be­cause of a short­age at a unit in Glas­gow Royal In­fir­mary, which ad­mits A&E pa­tients.

An­other pa­tient said: “I’m in hospi­tal and they don’t have any cov­ers as there is a short­age. They only have sheets.

“I said can I have a sheet to cover me as I was cold. I had to ask my son to buy one and a wee lady across from me has brought her own too. It’s be­cause of the flu.”

NHS Greater Glas­gow and Clyde stressed that the per­sonal care of pa­tients was “as im­por­tant as clin­i­cal care” and said some fam­i­lies pre­fer to do it them­selves.

With re­gard to the blan­kets, a spokes­woman said no is­sues had been raised with fa­cil­i­ties depart­ment, but she added: “It may have been a lo­cal is­sue that was re­solved through our nor­mal linen pol­icy.”

Politi­cians de­scribed the claims as “ab­so­lutely shock­ing” and blamed chronic un­der-re­sourc­ing of the NHS rather than a win­ter cri­sis.

Of­fi­cials stressed that the mor­tal­ity rate was rel­a­tively low and pa­tients who had died were likely to have had un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tions.

Gre­gor Smith, Scot­land’s deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, stressed ear­lier this week that the cur­rent flu vac­cine is “a good match” for the pre­dom­i­nant strain in Scot­land, a va­ri­ety of in­fluenza A (H3N2). Peo­ple with a long-term med­i­cal con­di­tion, a weak­ened im­mune sys­tem, who are preg­nant or over 65, are strongly en­cour­aged to take up the vac­cine.

Mr Smith also stressed that the pre­dom­i­nant strain cur­rently cir­cu­lat­ing in Scot­land is not the same strain preva­lent in Aus­tralia be­tween May and Septem­ber last year.

A spokes­woman for NHSGGC said: “The per­sonal care and com­fort of our pa­tients is as im­por­tant as the clin­i­cal care and this is fac­tored into the ev­ery­day du­ties of our staff. There are times when peo­ple might pre­fer to do it them­selves, but there is never an ex­pec­ta­tion that fam­ily mem­bers get in­volved in their rel­a­tive’s care.”

Scot­tish Labour’s shadow cabi­net sec­re­tary for Health Anas Sar­war, said: “We’ve heard of of­fice staff hav­ing to clean beds, or feed pa­tients and now fam­i­lies are hav­ing to do the very ba­sics, even sup­ply­ing blan­kets.

“This is not just the re­sult of a win­ter cri­sis – the BMA has made that clear. It’s the re­sult of chronic un­der-re­sourc­ing by the SNP which has led to a work­force cri­sis.”

The Bri­tish Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion warned this week that the­si­t­u­a­tion should not be dis­missed as “the in­evitable in­crease in pres­sure that win­ter brings”.

Adam Tomkins, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive MSP for Glas­gow, said: “These are deeply con­cern­ing rev­e­la­tions which show just how stretched our NHS has be­come.”

Rel­a­tives are com­ing in to help pa­tients get washed. The nurses are rushed off their feet

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