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Monday, 31 May 2010

Forceps for Meredith Grey?

This morning I put the hairbrush in the fridge again. Yesterday, the green beans were discovered in the sock drawer. Once, and only once, I managed to pop my mobile phone in the post-box, which wouldn't have been the end of the world, except that foolishly, I forgot the stamp.

Being a tad on the forgetful side may be an irritation in the domestic sphere, but in the workplace of course it can prove rather more serious. Not for me, thankfully, since I've never had a job where anything more important than a missing Annex to a background paper on the migrating patterns of actuaries was at stake.

Rather more worrying are the instances of forgetfulness in the operating theatres of Scotland's hospitals, which were revealed in the response to a Freedom of Information request just published by the Press Association.

Forceps, needle tips, fragments of a bone drill and swabs were among the lost property items reported as having gone AWOL in the icky inside bits of real live people. The data detailed that, since 2008, in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde a total of 12 patients had been discharged with objects left inside them after surgery. NHS Borders meanwhile confirmed that forceps, which are typically between six and eight inches long, were left inside a patient at Borders General Hospital.

Hang on a minute, the tip of a needle's one thing but EIGHT INCH long forceps? Surely that can't be right? I mean, we've all left our eyelashes curlers in the hotel ensuite at some point, but come on, chaps!

A number of questions arise about such a mishap. First and foremost, why were the forceps casually laid to rest in the patient's innards in the first place? That's the equivalent of putting your red wine glass down on the cream carpet at the neighbourhood watch meeting, it's never going to end well.

Frankly, it reeks of a rather dismissive approach to the dignity of the patient's entrails. What next? The anaethestist propping his thermos on your spleen while he doles out the egg nog at the Christmas party? The surgeon wedging her compact mirror into your lower bowel while she squeezes her blackheads?

For if familiaity breeds contempt, it must be jolly hard as a practising medic not to get slightly blase about rootling around in some dude's gizzard. We'd like to think that the atmosphere in theatre when we're etherised on the table is as reverent as a Trevor McDonald interview, when it's probably more like the accounts department's 'Cupcake Friday'.

Personally I blame Channel 5. I wouldn't be surprised if next years stats reveal a worrying number of patients who have had to return to hospital due to discarded DVD Box sets of Grey's Anatomy, protruding from under their rib cages.

My hunch is that while the creme de la creme of the country's medical and nursing undergraduates should be stopping in the library, heads buried in Gray's anatomy, they're much more likely to be swotting up the anatomy of Izzy and co. Especially now that McDreamy is on tap on catchup tv, him and his sexy barnet pining for that whiny, pinch-faced, cotton-bud Meredith bloody Grey who has all the sexual allure of an Afghan hound. (I'm sorry, where was I?)

Oh yeah, what sort of example is that to set unattractive, um, sorry, I mean impressionable young Scottish puddins, er... rather, medics? With role models like that, no wonder 12 piece teasets are being casually overlooked during appendectomies. It's hard to keep your eye on the swab count when you're undoing each others' scrubs with your eyes and wigging out to Snow Patrol.

But of course I'm being facetious - they never play Snow Patrol in theatre, only when they're lying in the foyer, spent from a long hard day rolling their eyes and shagging transplant patients.

Seriously though, it's obviously not a barrel of laughs to be wheeled home after an op oblivious to the fact that there's a wee internal party bag of gauze wrapped monkey wrenches festering inside you. Thankfully however, though 'one such incident is one too many', it's still a pretty rare occurence. Partly due to procedures designed to prevent such incidents , particularly that all swabs and instruments should be "counted back out and in" again, by not one, but two members of the nursing staff. (Though budget restraints mean that it's not possible to have Brian Hanrahan on hand for anything other than headline cases.) But also because clumsy, slapdash, buffons like myself are, on the whole, not likely to get through the rigorous training required.

The NHS, despite its cock-ups, is a marvellous, wondrous, life saving and life affirming institution and we all should thank our lucky stars we have it - though sometimes it does pay to have your wits about you - especially if you hear "Chasing Cars" as they're putting you under.

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