Some Cat’s Birthday, Somewhere

Public Service Announcement: the hospital mission statement has recently changed.

A regular feature of my working day is stealing supplies from around the hospital. This is necessary, because a) our own stuff often don’t turn up and b) it is a larf. To this end, I encourage my fellow NHS cannon fodder to imagine that, instead of carting a patient about the place in a hospital bed, they are instead piloting a Viking longship in the ninth century, and the hospital is a monastery on the Isle of Iona. This initially drew a few blank stares but once I explained what the Isle of Iona is, and the significance of the Viking raids there, they embraced the idea with great enthusiasm and now return from jaunts to A & E or the ‘Big C’ cancer unit with drugs, nephrostomy bags and urine bottles, of which we never have enough. I have suggested we solve this with a grit tray along the centre of our ward like you would have if the patients were all cats but, thanks to the magic of stealing, these days are a thing of the past. As we enter the last weeks of 2022, my unit’s boast is that any mammal of any size can urinate in comfort. Actually, I think this should be the mission statement for the entire hospital, rather than the current one – ‘Our vision is to provide every patient with the care we want for those we love the most’ – which is just annoying.

My personal mission statement is that ‘It’s always some nurses’ cat’s birthday somewhere’ and I frequently remind my gallant team of this, as it means that cake is also up for grabs around the wards. It is usually found on the draining board of the small sink units outside the linen stores which are the impromptu staff room on most of them, along with the ‘I’m Not A People Person’ mugs – another strong contender for the hospital mission statement, now I come to think of it – and endless boxes of fucking Cadbury’s Heroes. This is unless you find yourself in paediatrics, which is all crisps for some reason. I’m not convinced that cholesterol is the evil substance it is made out to be, having read everything and spoken to everyone I can find about it during my current concerns about peripheral arterial disease, and am instead blaming refined sugar and processed foods. Sadly, I love these things very much, so am unable to share in the bounty of birthday cake theft. This is troubling, but now that being a wellness coach has replaced being a primary school teacher as career of choice for young middle class women, there are at least plenty of people to talk to about it.

Such is the plunder available that I have long thought it would be possible to survive at work by just eating cake and Cadbury’s Heroes. Imagine my surprise when I realised that some of the cannon fodder I am seeking to unionise actually do. I’m pretty sure they will be stealing biscuits and whatnot from stuff the patients get bought in by their families and so on, too. I’ve done that, if it’s those mad Christmas seashell chocolates or Ferrero Rochers or whatever although, being a gentleman highwayman, I tell the patient I am stealing stuff while doing it. Also, my motivation is gluttony rather than malnutrition, but I now know there are patients who have food brought in for no reason other than to feed staff. This is insanity. I know staff that order sandwiches and such for fictitious patients so they have something to eat, and that a blind eye is often turned to this, but patients actually feeding their carers is madness. Awful. It would be nice to be as proud of the NHS as people who don’t work in it are, but I’m afraid I am not.

Then again, this sort of thing is why unionising the cannon fodder might be a good idea. Also, I do have the germ of an idea about how to spark this into life, in the form of my personal development review. This is where you bang on about all the stuff you’ve done in the year and set goals and so on. I have spent most of the last year being appalled and horrified, so I don’t have much to say. I could set my goals for next year as being less appalled and horrified, I suppose, but might refuse to take part altogether on the grounds that I have no faith in the management of the NHS, which would lead to some interesting discussions when it gets escalated. My case in point would be the manager who actually writes my personal development review, who caused a member of staff to leave by repeatedly shouting at her, in anger, in front of colleagues, that the only reason she goes to football is because she is racist and homophobic. She was a Norwich fan, too, and they are a lovely bunch. She could’ve complained, but the person she would be complaining to is a close friend of the manager concerned – they go on holiday together and whatnot – so she understandably felt that this was pointless and now works in Pizza Express, where at least there is quite a lot of food about, I should think. Yes, I understand that it is tiniest conceivable spark, but that’s all you need really.

Anyway. The rest, as they say, is histology. In case you are unfamiliar, this is the clinical study of cellular structures and, come to think of it, would’ve been a more appropriate remark while justifying the theft of hospital supplies then going on about Vikings and the Isle of Iona. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.


Main: A cannulation trolley of my acquaintance.

Top inset: The scrubbed floor of one of our operating theatres. You’d think that a flooring material that retains the slightest splash of iodine with the permanent appearance of a bloodstain would be seen as a design flaw, but it appears not.

Middle inset: The baffling and recently changed hospital mission statement.

Lower inset: Sid larking about in some woodland a couple of years ago.

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