Tag Archives: hygiene

Disposable healthcare

For almost six months now, I have been attending my local GP practice to have a wound dressed by the nurses. It was an abscess I messed around with which exploded under the skin and had to be lanced to get all the gooey puss out.

Still reading? Well, there was a gaping hole left behind as the doctor scraped out the infected flesh, so he packed the wound with a sterile dressing leaving a little wick outside the incision to allow fluid to drain away and the cavity to heal from the inside without closing over.

Due to the nature of the procedure I was expected to return on a daily basis (even weekends) for the first two weeks. Each time, a new sterile pack was opened containing a plastic sheet, plastic self-stick bag, plastic apron and latex gloves; a fresh pair of plastic-handled scissors in a plastic sterile pack; plastic tongues in a plastic sterile pack; metal probe in a cardboard sleeve, in a plastic wrapper, in a plastic pack; 45cm length Aquacel packing (even though only 7cm was used) in a plastic pack; saline solution in a plastic bottle; a packet of gauze (even though only 1 square was used) in a plastic pack; and the dressing itself made of some type of plastic, wrapped in paper, with a plastic coating.

I was astonished. I know there is a lot of waste in the NHS, I know that minimising the threat of infection is a priority, and I know that the environment is not a concern to most. But surely there is a better way – more responsible way – of doing things.

I expressed my horror to one of the nurses on duty, who agreed that they waste an awful lot, offered me the scissors to keep and explained that the EU no longer allow us to sterilise equipment so everything has to be disposable. Wow. Everything?

Within a fortnight I had 10 pairs of scissors, several probes, packets of gauze and numerous bags.

If this is how many scissors are thrown away just because of me, I began to consider how many patients the nurses see in a day, how many pairs of scissors they throw away each week, how many GP practices there are in my town alone, how many hospitals, how many in my county and the whole country, then the whole of Europe… Oh my.

Then I started to think about all the countries around the world where healthcare is a privilege, not a right, and what they would think if they could see the amount of medical equipment we throw away, while they haven’t even got access to such things. Surely, it would make more sense to at least safely package up the used items, sterilise them offshore and distribute them among needy nations.

I dunno. I don’t have the answers, but I do know this is wrong. This is health and safety legislation “gone mad”. It’s as sickening as the amount of food thrown away by supermarkets that apparently can’t be given away to the hungry. But that’s another post…

Now, what do I do with all these scissors?



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Filed under Community, Consumerism, Green, NHS, Plastic