Lord Mancroft has stirred up controversy by criticising nurses in a West Country hospital:
He told peers: "The nurses that looked after me were mostly grubby. We're talking about dirty fingernails, slipshod, lazy.(Mr E has a slightly different take on this).
"It's a miracle I'm still alive. But worst of all my Lords they were drunken and promiscuous.
"How do I know that? Because if you're a patient and you're lying in a bed, and you're being nursed from either side, they talk across you as if you're not there.
I don't find Mancroft's comments surprising. And if someone had reported this about a private company:
"I can only tell you that it is a miracle that I am still alive. The wards were filthy. Underneath the bed where I was, there lay a piece of dirty cotton wool and it remained there for several days. The ward was never cleaned.what would have been the reaction?
"It was a gastroenterology ward with lots people with very unpleasant infectious diseases. Neither the ward, nor the tables, nor the beds, nor the bathrooms were cleaned.
"I was extremely infectious at that time but they took no precautions with me at all. They were furious when my wife wanted my bed cleaned when it clearly needed cleaning."
The National Health Service has a long tradition of treating patients with contempt, or ignoring them entirely and chatting as though they weren't there, as Mancroft reports. My earliest memory of the NHS is from 1967, when I was seven years old and had been rushed, late at night, in an ambulance from a small district hospital (which was excellent) to a large one for an emergency operation after the site of a hernia repair burst open. I came round in a children's ward in the small hours, listening to nurses chatting nearby. They were competing to see who had seen a child die for the most trivial reason while in their care.
"I had one die from a cold!" - followed by laughter.
The most recent time I stayed in hospital overnight, in Addenbrookes in Cambridge about seven years ago, a stream of patients from the ward, including me, went to the nurses' station to ask them to help a very distressed and confused elderly woman who was writhing on her bed in the mixed ward, nightdress up around her neck, soaked in her own urine. They refused - they were having a meeting.