Nursing Times Award Winner

Why it is important to overcome a 'culture of fear'

Time and again, the team from Kissing it Better feels they have to overcome the 'culture of fear' that exists in so many hospitals. All too often, hospital managers decide to 'play safe' and refuse to allow a carefully planned initiative to take place that could do so much to lift the spirits of patients and their relatives.

When my mother was in hospital, I asked if my fourteen year old daughter and her two friends could sing to her. I said I would supervise the event and explained that I held several enhanced CRB checks. The request was refused on two counts. First, that the girls might pose an infection risk and secondly that they needed a CRB check. But, at fourteen years old, they were too young to have that check at that hospital.

On another occasion, I was not allowed to put one candle on my mother's birthday cake because it was a fire risk and we couldn't bring in an Ipod because of the electrical risk.

The latest issue involves beauty therapy students who, for some time have been visiting a hospital, under the full supervison of their 'enhanced CRB checked' tutors and experienced hospital volunteers, to deliver simple hand massages and manicures. Hundreds of patients, and their relatives have received these wonderful treatments, free of charge, either on the wards or while they are anxiously awaiting appointments in outpatient clinics. Everyone has loved it, the atmosphere is always lively and fun whenever they are around. Senior staff have told us the complaints have reduced significantly.

Yet, recently, someone in authority suddenly heard about what had been happening and, without checking any details or speaking to any of the students or their supervisors, stopped it with no notice. This, as it turned out, could have had huge implications for the safety of the young students as, due to the late timing of the cancellation, there were grave concerns that there would not be time to get the message to all the students before they set off for the hospital.

My mother, who couldn't speak or move following a serious brain injury, spent a great many hours, day after day, staring, silently, at a bare wall. Her bed was not in sight of a window. I know that she would have loved to have a hand massage or a manicure, delivered with loving care by a supervised student. Yet, it didn't happen.

To live a full and meaningful life, we all have to manage our risks. If we didn't take any risks we would never get up out of bed in the morning in case we tripped on the stairs, burned ourselves on a kettle, drove a car or crossed a road. Incidentally, having a supervised manicure is not on my list of activities that I regard as being 'high risk'.

Of course we have to be careful. Many patients are very vulnerable and it is important that any activities are fully discussed with those responsible for their care before they take place. But, if it is decided that the 'greater good' is that an activity should happen, please can those events go ahead.

It's called common sense.


Jill Fraser

Jill Fraser

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