Keep it Clean

A hundred and fifty years ago Joseph Lister discovered that simple hygiene for surgeons, doctors and nurses would prevent most commonplace diseases contracted after operations in hospitals. He introduced a regime of washing hands and clothes of surgeons and sterilising surgical instruments with results that astounded surgeon of the day. Since then doctors all over the world recognised the importance of cleanliness in hospitals.

These days it seems that many nurses wash their own uniforms. There are no standard ways of washing a uniform but to avoid cross in hospitals infection microbiologists agree that uniform should be washed at 60 degrees or more for at least ten minutes, and washed separately from other clothes.

Now, that does not sound terribly complicated to me, even though I am no doctor or microbiologist. In fact it sounds astonishingly clear.

What is terribly clear is that despite its legions of managers the National Health Service has no standard guidelines for nurses to follow when washing their uniforms. The managers, it seems, do not think the simple discovery of Lister has any place in modern medicine.

When I last looked there was one manager for every eight nurses in the NHS.

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