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Nurses have compassion - why don't patients show themselves some?


Sunburn, obesity, smoker’s cough - are patients a bit thick or have public health campaigns failed miserably?

Patients suffering from ailments that are arguably self-inflicted or easily preventable is nothing new - barely a day goes by without a news story about binge drinking, overeating, or other lapses in basic self-preservation.

Always the misanthrope, Beyond the Bedpan is personally in the “let them suffer” camp. The UK is plastered with public health posters, TV ads and websites - surely by now it’s sink or swim.

Or maybe you disagree. Apart from sticking yet another poster on the side of a bus, is there some way the health service could help excessive sunbathers, smokers and drug-takers without breaking the bank?

Perhaps instead of drugs and surgery, you could start sending patients off with a pat on the back and a prescription for a preservation instinct. Here are a few things they could try, just for starters:

  • stand back from the edge of cliffs
  • cut up large foods (eg courgettes and carrots) before eating
  • open doors before attempting to pass through them
  • hold knives and forks by their blunt ends
  • and, for crying out loud, listen to nurses when they give you advice

Well, have you got a better idea?


Readers' comments (71)

  • No I am firmly with you on this one. People have had enough free treatment, enough advice and enough help over the years, yet they still continue to purposely poison themselves and treat their bodies like s**t. It is their own damn fault.

    I think one of the main reasons, apart from sheer stupidity, is the huge safety net that the NHS supplies. People know no matter what they do to themselves, the NHS will look after them.

    Removing this safety net, by refusing to treat people if they refuse to change their lifestyle choices, or charging for the full cost of their care (the government can even call it a stupidity tax if they like?) will let all those smokers, alcoholics, drug users and obese people know that they have to take responsibility for their own choices.

    Basically it will send a message, if you eat too much and don't excercise, you will get fat and it is your fault. Don't come crying to us. If you abuse drugs/alcohol/tobacco, you will develop serious health problems and probably die, then you can't come crying to us anyway.

    Or on the other end of the scale how about offering a carrot to those of us who DO stay fit and healthy as well as a stick for the idiots out there.

    For people like myself who are fit and healthy, do not smoke/take anything/drink etc, perhaps there should be a DECREASE in NI contributions? After all we will probably use it less. How about local councils building and offering a lot more gyms/pool facilities at subsidised prices?

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  • Agree with the first comment. The NHS is failing because the public abuses it, they have unrealistic expectations and they lack personal responsibility.

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  • As I keep saying, it's time to stop pandering to the masses and get them to stand on their own two feet and be accountable for their own health.
    We bang on about 'Public Health', there is only so much eduucation one can dish out and there is very little evidence that what is being done to reduce alcohol intake, increase exercise and eating healthily is making any difference at all.
    We live in a 'Nanny State' and it has to change!

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  • Excuse me, but if that smoker was your child (as is mine) would you refuse them care? I have tried everything; education, enouragement, bribary, bullying and loss of privilleges, but to no avail. She is an intelligent girl, but is addicted. No ghastly pictures on packets, chest infections or high price has made her change her habits. Shall I just say "go on then kill yourself why don't you"? Please think again fellow nurses, all our patients are someone's loved one, and we (as public servants) are not there to judge them. I agree that public money is wasted trying to change the habits of those like my daughter, but many are helped to quit risky behaviours through the support and advice from professionals like you and I. I won't stop helping my fellow man just because i disagree with thier life choices. They pay taxes too you know.

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  • Anonymous | 3-Jul-2010 9:37 am, No, that is why laws against smoking in the workplace were introduced, because society has started to realise how selfish smokers are and how damaging passive smoking is.

    Anonymous | 3-Jul-2010 12:16 pm, Yes I would actually. My own parents are smokers, as is my brother. I am not. And I am perfectly willing to say they should be refused treatment if they refuse to stop smoking. As would I if any person became ridiculously obese and refused to lose the weight, or became addicted to drugs and refused to kick the habit.

    I am not judging them for their choices (okay I am a little as I think those choices are pathetic, stupid and wrong), but I believe it is their choice to make. If they want to be obese, fine, you are only harming yourself. If you want to inject yourself with poison, same rule applies. Smoking is slightly different as their selfish habits affect others too, but the principle is the same. What I object to is having to pick up the pieces every time and pay for it. And yes, we all pay the same amount of taxes, but they are a lot more likely to use the services than I am, so where is my discount?

    I am not against giving advice, I am not against giving support and choices and help through the NHS for those who want to change, who want to quit smoking/drinking/taking drugs/whatever and live a healthier lifestyle, but there HAS to be a limit. The resources of the NHS are finite, and running out fast.

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  • What I was originally saying though, rather than turning this into a slightly different debate, was that if the crux, the safety net was not there, then would people really still carry on with these self destructive behaviours? I dont think so, at least not to the same extent.

    I also think the education needs to start earlier, in schools. The whole culture in this country is dead set against looking after yourself. Compare us to Australia for example, where sports are a big part of school life and everyone does at least some excercise almost every day. Over here the playing fields have pretty much been sold off and kids are lucky to get an hour or two of excercise a week! The outdoor healthy lifestyle is the norm in Oz, over here the norm is Jim Royal and the TV! Don't get me wrong, there are excpetions of course, but something cultural needs to change here, and fast. And I think that there are a whole raft of things needed to get that done. Removing the safety net of the NHS and the increasing of competitive daily sports in schools are just two of many.

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  • Hmmmm!! Am l missing something here? I thought we, as nurses, are supposed to be non-judgmental and to treat everyone, and l mean everyone, without prejudice.

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  • Anonymous | 3-Jul-2010 2:06 pm, and we do. But that does not mean that we cannot have personal views or debate them in here without doing our jobs professionally. That is the definition of professional practice I think. It does also not mean that we cannot debate where the NHS resources should be spent. For example, it was recently said by an MP that health tourism should stop and anyone from abroad should pay private. Is he being judgemental? After all they are still human beings and need treatment? Get real.

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  • Mike, l hear you loud and clear. I am married to an Aussie and we live here in blighty, things are not as perfect as you may think in Oz, but beaurocracy is certainly far less and things get done. However, in your words " get real " we have to do the best that we can with what we have. Yes we are all entitled to our personal opinions, but where does that stop? Would we be having the same conversation, for example if it were about race, age or sexual orientation. I think not. Self centure against bigotry of any kind is to be endorsed, professionally or privately.

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