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Doctors could cure sick NHS.


HOSPITAL con-sultant Milton Pena has put his job on the line by telling the truth about the nursing shortages on the wards that are supposed to care for his patients.

What he has revealed is a terrifying picture of the critically ill simply being ignored for hours on end.

One woman who should have been checked every 15 minutes in case she slipped into a coma was not visited for six hours.

Mr Pena is in no doubt that lives are at risk at Tameside General Hospital in Greater Manchester. He tried to alert managers after he logged 14 separate occasions when there was just one qualified nurse on duty to care for 28 patients.

The 56-year-old orthopaedic surgeon now faces being suspended, and possibly worse, for speaking out.

Clearly, his action is principled and courageous and correct.

The big question it prompts is this: why is he the only one?

Why is one surgeon, coming up for retirement, the only medic in the entire NHS prepared to put his head above the parapet and tell us what is really going on.

Tameside General is not the worst in the country. Ten hospitals have worse nurse-topatient ratios.

The Royal College of Surgeons has warned of a shortage of nurses across the NHS. Recent figures showed that tens of thousands of them every year are finding themselves unable to cope with the workload and massive responsibilities thrownupon them. They are simply walking away in silence.

Until Mr Pena spoke out, the real implications of what is going on remained hidden.

As this column has said before, it is the duty of doctors and nurses to ensure that their patients are cared for properly.

There are thousands of these well-paid professionals who daily confront shortcomings and failures like the lack of hygiene procedures on our hospital wards.

Yet, despite the fact that the result is 5,000 deaths a year, all of them simply turn a blind eye.

The same is true of simple procedures that could prevent deep vein thrombosis. How can these people simply clock off at the end of their shift and go home, leaving vulnerable patients in danger?

How can they face opening the ward door next morning, not knowing how many of these desperately ill patients are still alive?

How can they live with themselves
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 8, 2005

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