A few weeks ago my husband had routine day-surgery, which entailed arriving at the hospital at the surreal time of 7.15 am. Around 8am, he was called in to different curtained-cubicles by a succession of people, who included two specialist nurses, an anaesthetist (who wasn’t going to be the anaesthetist, because he was due to knock off at 12), and a couple of scarily young doctors, one of whom – a few sentences in – introduced himself as the surgeon. Which was a good thing, because, while none of those we saw could be readily identified by their dress, the surgeon – in a T-shirt, scruffy jeans and trainers – was the least recognisable of all.
Now you might be more broad-minded than I am and say that, so long as he scrubs up properly and wields his scalpel competently, there really isn’t a problem. But I tend to think there is. And so – I was delighted to see – does a Lanarkshire hospital consultant, Stephanie Dancer, who used an article in a recent issue of the BMJ to call for doctors to dress more formally. Patients, she said, couldn’t figure out who the doctor was.
Apparently it was the ban on white coats, long sleeves, ties etc – introduced amid the panic about infections – that gave the green light for doctors to dress down. Instead of adapting their formal dress to the new requirements, it seems, they now feel free to come to work looking, frankly, as though they’ve shambled in from a hard night at the student union bar.
It can’t be beyond the wit of someone to design uniforms that would meet the hygiene requirements and require hospital doctors to wear them, can it? On a related subject, I’d also like to ask nurses to please smarten up and stop wearing their worryingly unkempt-looking tunics outside the hospital. I’ve never actually asked a uniformed nurse why she thinks it’s OK to commute in her – supposedly hygienic – working garb, but it’s only a matter of time before indignation overcomes my natural reluctance to talk to strangers.
‘Abenomics’ starts drilling
To Guildhall in the City, one of those ancient, outwardly modest London buildings that make you feel part of a privileged caste the moment you cross the theshold. The occasion was a speech by the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. One reason to go was that Abe has been making headlines since his election seven months ago, for fierce statements about banishing deflation and hauling Japan into the wider world. Plus, I’d never seen him in real life, and just observing someone in person inviariably tells you more than even live television can.
What impression did he make? The scion of a political family, he is entirely comfortable with power. Having resigned in 2007 because of illness, he feels that, thanks to new drugs, he has a fresh lease on life, and with that second chance, as he sees it, comes an urgent desire to get things done. Any preconceptions you might have about Japanese eschewing the personal and preferring the collective are disproved by Abe, who speaks as a one-man government. Here’s a sample: “Japan’s regulatory regime is like solid bedrock. I myself intend to serve as the drill bit that will break through that bedrock...” Imagine these words from, say, David Cameron, and the ridicule that would follow. But you never know. We’ll just have to see how Abe’s drilling goes.