Everyone deserves top-notch care

ONCE upon a time a patient was admitted to a squeaky clean hospital doused with disinfectant.Nurses would welcome her to a crisp bed in a pristine ward under the watchful eye of the never-to-be-crossed matron demanding exemplary standards from her staff.

ONCE upon a time a patient was admitted to a squeaky clean hospital doused with disinfectant.

Nurses would welcome her to a crisp bed in a pristine ward under the watchful eye of the never-to-be-crossed matron demanding exemplary standards from her staff.

She would be cared for and monitored until well enough to return home infection free.

She might moan to her visitors about hospital food but was encouraged to eat by nurses to keep her strength up.

Fast forward a few decades. The fairy tale has turned into a horror story.

Patients lie in filthy wards, if they're lucky enough to make the wards from corridors, treatment rooms or any other patient 'parking space'.

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Disgusted by their surroundings, their families clean the floors and walls around the beds themselves.

They bring in food and sit, particularly with the elderly, making sure they eat. Some even take over caring for their loved ones as hard-pressed nurses chase their tails to keep on top of their burdensome workload.

Patients try to sleep while elderly people with dementia roam agitated, sometimes aggressive, distressing and disturbing the sick and recovering.

Then many end up with infections caught in hospital and never make it home or are discharged more ill than when they went in.

Meanwhile, in Accident and Emergency, front line staff are being abused, insulted and assaulted by drunken 'patients' with self-inflicted injuries who take up precious treatment space ahead of genuine cases.

And, as basic standards of care and hygiene sink, spending on super-technology soars, we boast some of the most sophisticated equipment and procedures in the developed world and managers sink into their plush leather office chairs, earning hefty wads every year and admiring their places on the league table.

A simplistic view, perhaps, but accurate in many parts nonetheless. Alan Herbert, a retired nurse, has been caring for his sick partner at the James Paget University Hospital, because he claims staff are too busy to treat her condition adequately.

The 61-year-old has been treating Susan Goodwin for more than a month for a degenerative lung condition that needs round-the-clock specific care - care she's not getting from staff.

Mrs Goodwin is lucky to have Mr Herbert. Most others get what they're given which is woefully inadequate in many cases.

The hospital admits it's 'busy'. Staff can only do what is humanly possible but what is happening in a health service that was once the beacon of health care in the world?

I don't blame the staff - they do their best with the time and resources available and many work over and above their shifts to be professional.

Friends who work on the 'front line -' - not at the JPH - tell of girls, drunk out of their mind, sprawled across the floor, wearing no underwear and vomiting. For decency they have to shift them to beds leaving ambulances outside with seriously ill patients without a bed or treatment room.

Others talk about relying on the time and care of relatives to help care for patients on the wards just to get by.

What of the patients whose family can't spare the time to carry out the basics in hospital or who have no one? Are they victims of a new two-tier system?

No ones wants to see loved ones neglected or poorly cared for. But it's not the job of family to step in and offer care. What happens if something goes wrong? How far can family take treatment? What about security? It's beset with problems - a dilemma morally, professionally and medically.

We might have high expectations of our service but it's what we've come to expect over the years.

Every patient deserves top-notch professional care and staff want to give it.

To hear of these hotpotch sink or swim cases is heartbreaking.

The walk down the long aisle of Lowestoft's St Margaret's Church makes every bride feel like the grandest person on earth.

When I made that journey more than 15 years ago I was more overwhelmed by the magnificence and grandeur of the church than the congregation watching us take our vows.

My guests were equally stunned. 'It's like a cathedral,' one gasped.

It certainly is a gem and fitting that architects this week described it as the "the grandest and, in origin, the oldest building in the town" and a nationally significant building.

I feel honoured to have married there and walked that aisle just like my parents did 50 years ago.

Grinning like a fat cat that's got the cream - literally - 39-stone Michael Williment will soon be the proud tenant of a spanking new purpose-built �300,000 council bungalow for the morbidly-obese.

Over-sized corridors, bedrooms, en-suite facilities and living areas with two lifting hoists are being provided in the Norwich home as well as the two carers who help him in and out of bed and hoist him into his specially built armchair where he sits for 11 hours a day.

All because he is too fat to move around a regular home. It's obscene.

His hope for the new home's design? To encourage him out into the garden more. For a jog? It's a bit late for that.

But he didn't get to 39-stone by over-eating, he claims. It's 'medical'. Of course - and all you ever nibble is green salad.

He blames a course of steroid tablets as a teenager - he's 67 for goodness sake - to combat eczema caused his weight problem and now he has other health issues.

'I know there are many people in my situation. I've got to accept it and make the best of it.'

There is no 'best of it.' No one has to sit waiting to die getting fatter at our expense. It's his responsibility to change. By eating less and moving more to live longer.

It's not for the council to build a giant house around him.

His disability is self-inflicted like every morbidly obese person. Building super size homes to accommodate their fatness is madness.

Ironically, this poor excuse for a man is the secretary of a pub football team. He hasn't seen his feet for decades let alone kicked a ball with one.

His wife's dream - yes, he has a wife - is for him to make her a cup of tea.

Gaze on them and weep - but we're funding this self-indulgent twaddle.

Something good has come out of Swine Flu - an end to random social kissing.

New etiquette advises against social kissing to stem germ swapping.

At last. No need for all that slobbering and invasion of personal space by strangers.

Debrett's has drawn up a list of dos and don't for social kissing.

No more worries about to kiss or not to kiss or being grabbed by an unwelcome kisser who thinks he can plant a smacker on the cheek at first meeting. Urrrgh.

Kissing has so got out of hand. One cheek or both? How well do you have to know someone to share such intimacy? Everyone's kissing everyone. Where are the boundaries?

A firm handshake and 'how do you do?' will suffice, thank you.

What child needs �7 a week pocket money? That's a lot of sherbert dip-dabs.

Pocket money is bucking the recession with parents doling out almost �7 a week - an inflation busting rise of more than 500 per cent since 1987.

Parents moan that children constantly demand money but spend weekends dragging them around shops. Pot and kettle spring to mind.

A nation of spendaholics is breeding new generation of spendaholics.

We always forget to hand out pocket money to be regularly presented with demands for backdated (over-inflated) payments by boys trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

When I demand evidence of the work they've done to earn their money they soon slink back and save us a fortune.

Both were glamour models, courted unsuitable men, and have done more than their fair share of reality TV.

One has managed to claw back her dignity and the respect of the public who once derided her and sneered.

The other has managed to chuck herself to the bottom of the contempt pile where she belongs.

One has demonstrated self-awareness and tackled her issues head on by putting the past behind her and building a career to be proud of. The other is clueless about who she is and how others regard her.

Abi Titmuss, in Lowestoft playing Lady Macbeth, is making her mad 20s, John Leslie, dodgy poses and drinking history with a serious low-key acting career.

Katie Price meanwhile has shown her true colours as a self-absorbed deluded woman desperate to use those acrylic talons to claw back some affection from the public disgusted by her low-grade conduct.

If only she had achieved 'closure' on her publicity machine as well as her marriage and disappeared. We can but wish.

Headlines of Christmas tree shortages and must-have toys are put into perspective by the suffering of the people of Cockermouth.

They have no homes to stand a tree this Christmas. Four children are facing life fatherless.

Just listening to the rallying of those people who have lost everything by freak floods- at least they have each other, they say.

Possessions can be replaced but the people who matter are together.

Their stories should make us see the whole frenzy and commercialism of Christmas for the pointless waste it can be and focus on what is truly important in life.

The biggest rows in our house have happened in the hours before guests arrive to eat.

A super-sharpened electric carving knife couldn't hack its way through the tension in the air when I've invited friends to our table.

The thought of guests sampling my food somehow turns me into a woman possessed locked in the kitchen elbow deep in cook books preparing dishes far too elaborate and unnecessary for my repertoire, forcing the family to spring clean the house.

I've ended up crying into the cr�me brulee and husband's stomped out for hours 'to get some wine.'

But now I know I'm not alone in my culinary insecurity. Inviting friends to share a meal is more stressful than the daily commute, seeing the bank manager and a job interview - all together in my experience- according to a survey.

Suppers, dinners or even lunches for friends have long been banned in our house in the interests of marital harmony and local restaurants have cashed in instead.