Bring back Matrons for a dose of common sense in the NHS

NHS budgets £56 billion to pay for legal costs

 Related image  But one wonders if good old-fashioned Matrons in every hospital would stop claims before they start.  And by Matron I mean the person who was in charge of the hospital, not modern matrons who are two a penny all over the hospital, but not the same thing at all. 

Hattie Jacques typified the original Matron, in charge of a big hospital; vigilant, ruling her vast empire with a rod of iron enclosing a sensible, compassionate manner.  She was a good housekeeper too, and would soon have put her foot down if she found that hospital practices were costing the NHS vast sums of money.  Mid-Staffs would never have been allowed to happen under her watch, and neither would PR disasters that cost the NHS fortunes and bewilder caring parents and the public alike.

The story in the Daily Express highlighting the enormous amount paid out for claims against the NHS was shocking – that amount of money is almost half the annual budget for running the whole NHS.

But, put in a comment to your hospital about a bad experience, and it seems the NHS would rather get you to go to court than do something about improving what your complain about.  If something goes wrong, the NHS seems incapable of holding up its hands to admit wrongdoing. You are sent a three-page letter saying your comments ‘have been noted’, and enclosed is a four-colour leaflet telling you how to complain about the NHS;  not what you wanted to hear at all.

In the ‘old’ days Matron would have stepped in long before a problem escalated this far. But then she would never have allowed things to get so bad, and would have called in the Ward Sister or person responsible and told them to sort it out – in no uncertain terms.

I read the papers in dis-belief at the impersonal and arrogant way that today’s NHS deals with problems that have gone to Court. Currently one wonders what is the monetary cost alone of the Charlie Gard case – before one’s heart is appalled at a hospital that can allow its legal representative to tell the world about an MRI procedure’s results, before informing the parents. Bet the Gard’s solicitors, rightly so, will make mincemeat of that. Or, remember back to little Ashya King, at first denied the chance to get Proton beam therapy by the NHS, with patents arrested, leaving him on his own; and other stories where the service that promises ‘patients are treated with dignity and respect’ manages to get it so wrong.

Yes, medical staff know that a child that survives might be a vegetable for the rest of their lives, but …. it might not.  There are still miracles;  even in my small way I never accepted when told that I wouldn’t walk again – and I was proven right.  So why should we deny patients the right to seek a treatment they are prepared to try for the chance of life?

Latest scandal

Nurses and other staff at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales (UHW) now face massive fines for parking.  Staff say that fines were often set off by them over-running parking time when they stayed on because of an emergency.  Indigo, the French company that administers parking say staff were warned.  So why on earth didn’t the UHW’s CEO get both sides together to sort out ground rules?  Matron would have stepped in at the first sign of trouble, and ensured a local company (rather than one run from France) who understood the problems, ran the parking.  But today’s over-paid and unqualified admin staff couldn’t handle the first inklings of unrest;  they run a mile.

Today, you never see Admin staff on the wards; unlike Matron.  When I was in the RNOH in the 50s Matron would visit at least once a week – more often if there were a major problem.  This week I watched one CEO walk right across a massive auditorium in her hospital, and not one person recognised her.  Another CEO caused great hilarity when she sent round a memo to say from now on she would be making a monthly inspection of the hospital. The nurses said they wouldn’t recognise her as they had never seen her out of her office – except to greet the Prime Minister and other big wigs.

But at the private hospital used by the Royal Family and those in the know, there is a most capable Matron in charge – and boy, is the hospital well run.  Coming up the front steps one day, I see Matron coming through the doors.  I stand back out of respect – she skips back to hold open the doors for me – as far as she was concerned I was a patient and she wanted to make my visit as easy as possible.  Contrast that with staff at a ‘world famous cancer centre’ that I saw push past patients, during a fire alarm: three nurses went past two elderly patients hobbling down stairs, and didn’t turn round to even give them a hand.  But then, as I have seen, this hospital has an Administrator busy schmoozing VIPs.

MRSA and other infections

Staff lived in fear of Matron’s swiped finger across surfaces and on the tops of doors, cupboards and anywhere else dust might lurk.  It’s strange that MRSA didn’t appear until Matron disappeared. A friend has been in the local hospital for seven weeks, exhausted because she can’t get to sleep with two dementia patients taking turns to kick up a racked in her bay.  Finally, I am told she has a HIA (hospital acquired infection) and seek out Sister to see if she can be moved to a side room.  “Her HIA isn’t bad enough to do this”, Sister says. The ward has 24 beds in bays. and six side rooms – all are occupied so no wonder friends are scared of being treated there.

Meanwhile £56billion is nearly half of the NHS’s £118billion budget and dwarfs the £31billion earmarked for legal bills in 2014. Revelations about the money has led to concerns about patient safety and the mismanagement of NHS funds. Currently the staggering cost of medical mistakes has prompted questions about the quality of the work on hospital wards and operating theatres.

Potential costs

One Matron on a reasonable salary, plus two Deputies, will probably add up to less than the amount paid to current CEOs who all demand masses of support staff;  one CEO has just had her delusions of grandeur reined in, as the off-site Admin offices – all glam and high tech – were costing £1/2 million in rental a year.  So she has been made to move back into the offices in the hospital. Wonder what Matron would have said about that? !!

 So let’s bring back some Matrons on a trial basis, and I bet ‘customer relations’ improve.
'There's a case of beri-beri in ward b, what should I do'

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