We've had a bulletin going around telling us about the Norovirus, or “Winter Vomiting Bug”.
The bulletin gives the details of the virus, that it lasts up to three dyas, that unless you are very young or very old it will pass with no long term effects and that the most important thing is to keep hydrated.
It also mentions that you shouldn't prepare food, or be around vulnerable people for forty-eight hours after the symptoms have gone.
(I wonder if this will be taken into consideration should staff members become sick?)
We are being asked to give this information to patients and to leave them at home in order to stop the virus spreading through hospitals.
All good advice and it's god to see us as a trust looking at the bigger picture, but unfortunately in the real world it doesn't quite work that well.
Lets say that I go to a patient and then a few days later they drop dead (of whatever reason, it doesn't really matter), I'll be the person who the Coroner's office looks at closely. I reckon I'd get a suspension at the least.
But that doesn't matter – It all comes down to risk management, it is riskier for more people for me to take such patients to hospital. So I'll leave them at home.
When I can.
The other major problem is that when someone calls an ambulance they often want to go to hospital. All the advice I can give about staying at home is for naught if they 'demand' to go to hospital. I can't refuse them this.
The only time I can refuse someone an ambulance is if they are violent or abusive towards me.
So, the other night I found myself in a patient's front room. They had been suffering from a presumed Norovirus infection. They were otherwise fit and healthy, but for one day had been having episodes of diarrhoea and vomiting. I explained that they didn't need to go to hospital.
But they insisted. They wanted to see a doctor because they were fed up with this one day worth of illness.
I tried to persuade them to stay, but they were having none of it. So I had to take them.
And this is why the policy will fail – because all you need is one infected person to insist that you take them to hospital and it all falls apart.
Oh well, maybe for the next epidemic my bosses will let us refuse to take people.
Of course then we'll have worried relatives threatening to beat us up if we don't take them.
That or they'll get a cab…