The Patients Association's Ten Top Tips to using your Patient Power!
The Patients Association has always maintained that patients can play their full part as members of the team looking after them. So to help patients pull their weight, whether they are admitted to hospital as emergencies or are called in from the waiting list for elective care, usually surgery, we have prepared a ten-point guide. Each patient can pick off the list the things they are able to do and ignore the rest.
1. Check your Trust’s Annual Health check ratings October 2006. Log on to www.healthcarecommission.org.uk and follow the appropriate links. The ratings are made up of a number of performance indicators and show how Trusts are doing in relation to some of the main targets set by the Government for the NHS.
2. Before a planned admission take a long hot soapy bath or shower, without using heavily scented brands, and have an all-over scrub with a soft gentle brush or loofah. Clip your toe and finger nails (removing all nail polish) and wash your hair. Put on freshly laundered underwear. All this helps prevent unwanted bacteria coming into hospital with you and complicating your care.
3. When preparing the items you are taking with you, such as newly-washed nightwear, dressing gown, slippers and so on, add packs of antiseptic hand-wipes together with a couple of bulldog clips (from most stationers) and some plastic bags. Use the wipes every time you go to the toilet, and also before and after meals. Use a bulldog clip to clip an open bag to the edge of the bottom sheet and use it for your own rubbish. Give full bags to the ward cleaner for disposal.
4. When you arrive take a note of areas that are messy or dirty and point them out to staff. A clean and tidy environment not only keeps infection at bay, it looks better, makes all patients feel better and can get you out of hospital faster.
5. Arrange a “phone tree” with family and friends. Ask one of them to be the person who phones the ward staff for information on how you’re getting on, and then to pass the news on to everyone else (e-mail is good for this!). This will obviously save a lot of busy staff time
6. Ask visitors to co-ordinate their visits so there are only two people at the bedside at any time. The more visitors a patient has the higher the risk of bringing in an infection from outside. Also, instead of coming straight from work try to persuade them to go home and have a thorough shower or bath before coming to see you – again reduces the risk of bringing infection in from outside
7. Ask them all to use the hand cleaners that should be at the foot of each bed (as specified by the Government) as they arrive and before they leave. This can greatly help in the fight against the spread of infection.
8. Try not to let any children be brought in as visitors. However much you want to see them it’s better not to expose them to possible hospital infections nor to bring their own coughs and colds in.
9. Tell visitors not to sit on your bed. Not only uncomfortable for you, but another way to prevent infection reaching you. Remember even healthy people carry bacteria on their skin; indeed, we all do! And if they have even the slightest sniffle or indication of a cough ask them nicely not to come and see you.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask a nurse or a doctor– even a specialist – who comes to your bed to touch you, for example to examine a wound or check you in some way, whether they have washed their hands or used the disinfecting hand gel
Above all, never be afraid to ask questions, especially about your own condition or to make valid complaints.
It may be easiest to speak to whoever is in charge of the ward. Your awareness of your own condition will help you to recover more quickly and your complaints or comments on what happens in the ward could be of great value.