Hospitals, hygiene and the return of the matron

Share
Related Topics

Another day, another initiative advanced by one party to trump an earlier initiative of the other. A few months ago, Labour told us they would bring matrons back into hospitals to take responsibility for hygiene. Now we have the Tory leader, Michael Howard, also pledging the return of matrons. These, however, would be matrons with power - the power to close dirty wards even against the orders of those new-fangled managers and bean-counters.

Another day, another initiative advanced by one party to trump an earlier initiative of the other. A few months ago, Labour told us they would bring matrons back into hospitals to take responsibility for hygiene. Now we have the Tory leader, Michael Howard, also pledging the return of matrons. These, however, would be matrons with power - the power to close dirty wards even against the orders of those new-fangled managers and bean-counters.

The image of the hospital matron, all starched cap and apron and military-style discipline, has clearly left a deep impression on the British psyche. The Carry On... films have much to answer for. What we slack British hanker after, it seems, is a figure of authority to keep our hospitals shipshape.

In part, this is pure nostalgia for a bygone age. But the very fact that the return of the hospital matron is seen as a vote-winner suggests that the new structures of hospital management are felt to lack something important. That something is what matrons used to provide: the reassurance of a uniformed figure-head, the evidence that someone is in charge, the presence of someone with the practical knowledge and authority to get things done.

There can be little doubt that the financial discipline and record-keeping introduced to NHS hospitals in recent years were necessary and long overdue. It is also clear, however, that the privatisation of ancillary services and the preoccupation with targets have brought distortions and shortcomings in their wake. The spiralling incidence of MRSA infections may not be a direct result of privatised cleaning services, but it does reflect unacceptable hygiene standards and inadequate supervision.

Hospital managers cannot be expected to run their finger along every bed-frame of every ward. They cannot be expected to ensure that each bedpan is emptied or notice when a nurse's uniform is not freshly laundered. But these are the very basics of hospital hygiene and someone must be responsible for them. Today's hospitals may not need old-style matrons, but they could certainly do with more people at the sharp end of ward management who know what cleanliness looks like and have the authority to make it happen.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Support Assistant - Hampshire - up to 40K

£25000 - £40000 per annum + 23 days holiday Pension Scheme: Deerfoot IT Resour...

.Net Developer -London - up to 55K

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits : Deerfoot IT Resources Limited...

Compliance Officer - Trading Firm - London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + excellent package & bonus expectations: Real Staff...

Senior Compliance Executive - Top Bank - London

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Real Staffing: A highly successful Co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Only a game? Far from it

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at the Grand Mosque in Mosul  

The al-Baghdadi doctrine: leading British Muslims offer their response

Independent Voices
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil