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On the wards: Nurses can help cut costs

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Several weekends ago I read a headline in our local paper with much surprise: ‘£30m cut for our hospitals’. The headline relates to the trust where I work and is based on the news that the trust aims to save £30m during the current financial year.

I thought guiltily about the store order I put in the previous week for £706 before coming up with my own ideas for saving money.

My first thoughts centred on the ordering system that gives me so many options. All our patients are emergency admissions and regularly use soap to shower or wash themselves. On the system, I can order the cheap white hospital soap for 8p per bar – but there is also a much more expensive option. Should the more expensive option be there?

Injection trays are another example.

Foil trays are much more expensive and less environmentally friendly than the cheaper option of cardboard trays. So why allow us to order foil trays? I’m sure someone out there will come up with a good reason.

All wards are automatically stocked up with most of the regularly used sterile supplies. Now, I work in a medical ward. In medical wards, we only occasionally use sterile gloves for dressings. Compared with surgical wards, we have few catheterisations and only the occasional invasive procedure such as a pleural or abdominal tap. Yet on the shelves there are boxes of sterile gloves.

At home, when I am short of money, I go to my freezer, which is my main storage area, and make sure I use up the contents of the freezer before buying more food. Surely we should use up all our sterile gloves – which should last for more than a year – before being topped up again.

There must be other areas of the hospital overstocked on certain items. Why, on a medical ward, do we stock another item: a box full of forceps for removing surgical clips? I have never seen a wound with a surgical clip during my entire time in acute medicine.

Nurses also could do with some cost-cutting education. Patient wipes are plucked from their packets in huge numbers. It only takes two wipes to wash a patient. Normally the only time larger numbers are needed is when a patient is incontinent of faeces.

Could we save on the electricity bill? I know we could. What about the lights left on all night? In addition, all the computer terminals in the ward are left on 24 hours a day. Could the screens be turned off?

Finally, would the chairperson like to run a cost-cutting competition to promote staff ideas?

Gail Smith is a staff nurse in Cardiff

Want to read more On the Wards columns? Just click on the 'more by this author' link at the top of the page

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