Alex Neil under fire over hospital bed blunder

Health Secretary Alex Neil perches on a bed next to patient Gillian Turner. Picture: Julie Bull
Health Secretary Alex Neil perches on a bed next to patient Gillian Turner. Picture: Julie Bull
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HE was supposed to be showing off the Capital’s newest weapon in the war against superbugs. However, Health Secretary Alex Neil has come under fire after sparking an infection hazard all of his own – by plonking himself down on a patient’s bed.

Mr Neil toured the £43.6 million Royal Victoria Building at the Western General Hospital this week and chatted with patients and staff before carrying out the ceremonial opening.

But when he met one pensioner – who was being treated in one of the single rooms which are being rolled out across Scottish hospitals in part to tackle the spread of superbugs – he sat on her bed.

Although the minister politely asked Gillian Turner for permission before making himself comfortable, his move breached strict NHS guidelines designed to prevent the spread of germs.

And in a further embarrassment, he allowed himself to be photographed and filmed while on the bed on the same day that a report was published showing that rates of Clostridium difficile and MRSA were dropping across Scotland.

Mr Neil was ridiculed yesterday for the gaffe during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.

Addressing Alex Salmond, Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw congratulated the Government and the NHS on their success in reducing superbugs.

But the MSP then added: “We cannot afford to be complacent. Will the First Minister respond to a message that I received this morning? The person said, ‘As a nurse I was rather disgusted to see the Scottish Health Minister park his backside on a patient’s bed while opening a new hospital and wittering on about infection control’.

“I implore the First Minister to encourage his colleagues to desist.”

The question was met with laughter in the chamber, including from Mr Neil.

Mr Salmond then responded: “It is absolutely true that one of the successes has been to instil changed behaviour on the part of patients, visitors and staff throughout the National Health Service, and that includes government ministers.

“In the future, every single one of us will aspire to the high standards of Jackson Carlaw.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Mr Neil spotted his error immediately, and the sheets were changed.

The NHS offers guidance to people visiting a patient in hospital.

Under the heading “What not to do when visiting someone in hospital”, the first piece of guidance states: “It’s best not to sit on the patient’s bed as this can spread germs. Use the chairs provided.”