When Florence Nightingale arrived in Scutari, did she bring with her a legion of doctors or lorry loads of wonder drugs? NO, she just brought soap and clean water. Hygiene and cleanliness were the weapons she used against disease, suffering and death. She worked tirelessly and the mortality rate fell dramatically.
The point I am trying to make is this. Most improvements in public health have not been due to wonder drugs or brilliant doctors, but in lifestyle changes, increased hygiene and quality of life.
The major changes in Britain were firstly building of a sewerage system to take waste off the streets then having fresh clean water brought into people’s houses. Vaccination rid us of polio, smallpox, measles, tetanus and typhoid. These diseases have almost vanished, the Clean Air Act and testing cattle for bovine TB have reduced chest infections, and a healthy diet adds to people’s general well-being, and a reduction in smoking reduces heart disease.
However, hospitals seem to have lost sight of the basic concepts of good health. Air conditioning keeps diseases confined inside buildings, where no fresh air is allowed. Cleaning that most basic requirement of good health, has become the poor relation of our National Health Service.
So why are cleaners paid so little when cleaning is the most important step in any healthy system. Soap and water not polishers that push the dirt around from one place to another or grind it into a nice shiny surface.
Giant hospitals have become almost unmanageable, daily we hear of outbreaks of one disease or another which, it turns out, could have been prevented with basic hygiene. You need to be very healthy before going into hospital, or they will kill you off. Elderly patients are continuously the objects of abuse and maltreatment. Nurses now wish to be junior doctors, no longer involved with the care and nursing of patients, they do not care if the ward is clean or filthy, it is someone elses responsibility. isn’t it time we all went back to basics in hospitals, back to hospitals that are manageable and nurses who are proud to be nurses.