Friday, March 14, 2008

Tory peer vindicated after Norovirus shuts three wards at 'grubby' NHS hospital he attacked

Lord Mancroft: The peer, who says he is lucky to have left the Royal United hospital alive, feels he might have 'lifted the lid on something'. When a Tory peer launched a stinging attack on the "grubby and drunken" nurses he encountered in the NHS, the hospital employing them defended them to the hilt. It demanded evidence of Lord Mancroft's damning allegations and still says it has found not a shred of truth in his complaints. But yesterday it had to defend its standards once more as it dealt with its third disease outbreak in five months.

Another bout of the norovirus - the winter vomiting bug - has forced three wards to close at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Last November, the bug forced two wards to close, and a second bout last month shut nine wards. The highly infectious virus, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting, spreads through closed communities rapidly if patients and staff fail to wash their hands.

Last month, Lord Mancroft, the 50-year-old vice-chairman of the Countryside Alliance, spoke of how appalled he had been by the "filthy" state of the wards at the Royal United, during his treatment there for gastroenteritis. He said he was dismayed at the heartless attitude of "lazy and promiscuous" staff and that apart from "one or two wonderful ones" the nurses were "mostly grubby with dirty fingernails and hair".

In a Lords debate on patient care, he said: "It is a miracle that I am still alive. The wards are filthy. "The wards, the tables, the beds and the bathrooms were not cleaned." The peer, who hunts with Prince Charles, said a splash of blood in the bathroom and a piece of dirty cotton wool under a neighbouring bed were there for the entire seven days he was in hospital. The Royal United said staff were left "extremely distressed and upset" by the peer's account, in which he said he heard a nurse say: "I really shouldn't be here because I had so much to drink last night and I feel like I'm going to be sick."

The Royal United is one of at least 40 hospital trusts to be hit by the norovirus this year. Relatives ringing the hospital or visiting its website have been told that visiting is banned unless strictly necessary, and reminded to wash their hands at all times. Last night, a spokesman for the hospital, Helen Robinson-Gordon, said: "Norovirus is extremely prevalent in the community at the moment and other hospitals have been affected by it. "Of course it is linked to hygiene and cleanliness in that we should all have clean hands at all times but it is coming into the hospital from the community. "Because it is so highly infectious, once it is here it passes from person to person very easily. "We recently had two spot checks at the hospital for cleanliness and passed both with flying colours. "We still have no factual basis for Lord Mancroft's evidence whatsoever. We have asked him for a meeting which he has agreed to but we are still awaiting a date from him."

Lord Mancroft said last night: "I am not the person to comment on this because I am the amateur - it is up to them to sort themselves out. "But I can say that subsequent to speaking out I have had the biggest postbag I have ever had since I have been in the House of Lords. "Quite a lot of those letters are relating similar stories in the same hospital. Some relate to other hospitals. "I suspect I have inadvertently uncovered or lifted the lid on something."


British bureaucrats lose yet more ID data: "The Ministry of Defence is at the centre of a new security row, after the disclosure that 11,000 military ID cards have been lost or stolen in two years. Opposition parties said that the scale of the losses cast fresh doubt on plans for a national ID card scheme. The MoD said that it took the issue very seriously and steps were being taken to improve general security awareness. The cards have photographic ID on them "so it would be difficult for them to be used by individuals they have not been assigned to." MoD figures released in a Commons written answer said 4,433 cards disappeared in 2006 and 6,812 last year. Gerald Howarth, Tory defence spokesman, said: "This is another example of the Government's scandalous disregard for the security of our citizens and another reason why the public has no confidence in the Government's ID card plans."

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