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'Hotel style' wards leave patients feeling isolated

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Nightingale wards are much better than “hotel-style” hospital environments that can leave patients feeling isolated, a senior nurse has told the public enquiry into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

Yvonne Sawbridge, director of quality and nursing at South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust, which commissioned services from the hospital trust, said the “environment of care is not easy anymore”.

She said: “We’ve developed hospitals along hotel-style environments and that means patients are often feeling isolated and unable to see where the nursing workforce are, and the nurses cannot prioritise the buzzers, because they can’t see the person.

“On a Nightingale ward, if four buzzers are going, you can look down the ward and see where to direct your attention first. The other patients can see you’re there and working for them, and it manages their anxiety,” she told the inquiry.

“I think when people are genuinely ill, they worry more about that than whether or not they have a two-bedded bay with a nice toilet facility,” she added.

Ms Sawbridge spent almost a day and a half giving evidence to the inquiry, which is examining why regulators and other relevant organisations failed to pick up on the issues at the trust sooner.

The inquiry has previously heard evidence from patients and their relatives of poor standards of nursing care, including buzzers being ignored and patients being left without water, or to lie in wet beds.

Ms Sawbridge defended the profession against criticisms that nurses had “lost their way”, because they were university educated and saw basic care as beneath them.

She said: “Compassion and intellect are not mutually exclusive… I’ve sat with patients in pain, distressed and vomiting and had to wait for a doctor to come and sign for a prescription. Now, with non-medical prescribing, I can do both – and I can mop up the vomit and care for the distressed person.”

“But to do that you have to have an analytical ability to be safe… modern healthcare is too complex for its registered nursing workforce not to be educated at that [degree] level.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • I could not agree more and have been saying so for years.
    Nightingale wards are far more suited to caring for sick patients
    I realise people do like to have theri own rooms and toilets but for adequate care to be given and as you said to be able to prioritise, nightingale are best. I like to see my patients and I think they like to see me, as it is reassuring to know there are staff around, whereas in individual rooms I can't imagine how many times you have to jeep checking on people just to make sure they are Ok.
    The NHS is not a hotel and although patient experience is important, safe, effective and high standards of care are to me far more important

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  • Yes and no to these comments. I think this person at the enquiry is trying to pass the buck slightly and trying to wriggle out of any culbability for the terrible care that went on at Stafford. (That is if we can believe what the press has reported on this person, of course).

    However, Nightingale wards were quite impersonal and lacked privacy but visibility was good. Single rooms are difficult to observe patients. I think smaller bays, true single sex wards (and I don't mean this pretending that having single sex bays is right), with adequate toilet and shower facilities and a mini nurses station in each bay with a fully functioning computer with computer chair etc and access to electronic patient records would be best. Nurses are allocated areas to work in but should respond to any call bell as they are needed. Come off it, we have had to introduce hourly rounds on wards. How come? There are more trained nurses on each ward than when I was training, smaller wards and certainly anything remotely like a sick patient gets tranferred to ITU or HDU. Is this so difficult to see six patients in an hour and then start again? Hmm, something wrong somewhere with common sense and humanity not just ward layout. Stafford was a much bigger picture than that. We too have to deal with Managers just cutting corners and issues not being reported or acted upon.

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  • "Anything remotely like a sick patient gets transfrerred to ITU" may be the most ridiculous comment I have ever read on this website. I don't even feel the need to expand on this, as anyone who actually works on an acute medical or surgical ward will know how untrue this is. Plus the majority of the wards I have worked on have had one nurse to ten patients, not six.

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