Friday, 14 December 2012

Time to support nurses.

I almost wrote a blog last week about the suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, but as is my wont, I looked to my advisory group for their comments (I spoke with a couple of people) and the advice given was that my blog should not detract from criticism of the hoax callers in Australia. Now you see how each of my blog entries is carefully crafted. My emphasis was not on the mistakes made in Australia. The hoax callers were wrong. Every time someone pulls a prank it may not be appreciated by the person on the receiving end. Many pranks are harmless and funny, for example Candid Camera and Dom Joly, but what would have happened if the mask came off to reveal Jeremy Beadle and the practical joke ended in a heart attack? In this case the hoax callers had done something much worse. They say they didn't want to hear confidential information but they did, and then the radio station used it. They should have known that hospital management would have to act against their staff.

Everyone knows that the Australian DJs went too far. However my emphasis in the blog was with the reaction from the King Edward VII Hospital. Something wasn't right. We were continually hearing reports that no disciplinary action was being taken and the hospital had shown full support to their staff. Why? Their significant errors meant that private information was given out. The nurses should have faced some action from management. I didn't wish to criticise nurses but this is why I was given the advice not to publish. I wanted to highlight the underlying pressures caused by general working practice.

Every breach of confidentiality is important but when the hospital deals with celebrities then confidentiality becomes so much more important. Errors will always happen however good the training and protocols but you would expect a greater emphasis on this sort of training in a hospital like King Edward VII. How often are nurses in this hospital trained to deal with possible journalists? Sometimes a patient will not want other members of the family to know what is happening to them. There must be protocols to identify how information is given out. I would even expect codes to identify those to whom information may be given. Personal contact or no phone calls to the hospital may be needed for the specific protocols related to celebrities including members of the royal family. And that's what was odd. The hospital must be partly to blame. Nurses work under a great deal of stress as it is your life in their hands. Management have a duty to their nurses but they surely have a higher duty to their patients and confidentiality must be high on that list.

On Sunday Andrew Marr interviewed Peter Carter of the Royal College of Nursing. It wasn't about the royal hoax but Peter was briefly asked about the suicide. He had no wish to speculate on this particular case but immediately blamed the hoax callers. What about the significant level of pressure that all nurses work under? What about the denial of pressure by hospital management? What about the Peter Carter's answer which deflects blame and doesn't recognise this pressure?

Nurses make mistakes. If the mistake is big enough then it will end their career. Nurses do an excellent job but they are under pressure. It won't be helped when hospital management doesn't recognise it or at least refuses to acknowledge it.

And the reason why I am writing now? It is because Jacintha left a suicide note which criticised the way the hospital treated her following the hoax call - and this is the same management that said it was fully supportive. Time to recognise what support for nurses really means.

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