The Null Device

One-woman hospital efficiency drive

Life imitates Christopher Brookmyre novels: a nurse in Britain is on trial for being somewhat overzealous in tackling the bed-blocker problem, to the extent of attempting to hasten several patients' journey through death's door. In her efficiency drive, Barbara Salisbury is alleged to have given patients overdoses of diamorphine and withdrawn their oxygen supplies.
Salisbury, who was described by the prosecution as an experienced, capable and efficient nurse, is accused of attempting to murder Frances May Taylor, 88, in March 2002 in that she inappropriately administered diamorphine using the syringe pump, telling a colleague: "Why prolong the inevitable."
She is accused of attempting, 10 days later, to murder Frank Owen, 92, by instructing another member of nursing staff to lay Mr Owen on his back, allegedly adding: "With any luck his lungs will fill with fluid and he will die."

I wonder whether (assuming that the charges are true, of course) she was acting out of a personal cruel streak, or whether this is merely the most extreme manifestation of an institutional focus on patient turnover in the Thatcherite/Blairite health system in Britain (as was the plot of Brookmyre's Quite Ugly One Morning; though, granted, Brookmyre seems to write from a Scottish-socialist point of view).

There are 2 comments on "One-woman hospital efficiency drive":

Posted by: Follow Me Here Sat May 1 20:00:59 2004

My thoughts as a physician -- I don't think it is, probably, either of the possibilities he suggests. Taking the latter first, there are easier ways to free up beds if you buy into the pressure for "efficiency" (which, by the way, most patient-care health professionals, as opposed to management, do not, in my experience). In the US, it is not NHS iof course but the third-party payors and their indentured servants, the hospital administrators, who press us doctors for shorter lengths of stay. The 'utilization review managers' come to morning rounds to press us on patients whose continued stay the insurance company is threatening not to pay for — to dump them back on their families sooner, refer them to horrendous but less expensive rehab or nursing facilities, transfer them to public institutions where they will be on the taxpayers' nickels, or just to street 'em. What the insurance companies don't realize is that holding down length-of-stay for a given patient does not save them money in the mong run,

Posted by: Follow Me Here Sat May 1 20:04:33 2004

My comments were truncated; for the rest, please see <a href="" title="Follow Me Here">here</a>.