The surgeon stands accused

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 24 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:1094
  1. Matt Morgan, senior house officer, Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport
  1. mattmorgan{at}

    After my father had undergone emergency surgery for small bowel obstruction, I visited him in a local hospital. He was pleased with the quality of care he had received but had some reservations about the consultant surgeon who had operated on him late the previous night. He recalled the consultant smelling strongly of alcohol, and my father felt that he had been drinking before attending the hospital to carry out the emergency surgery.

    This concerned me greatly until I, too, was accused of smelling of alcohol. An impromptu clinical trial of using the hand sanitiser at the foot of the bed confirmed my hypothesis. The alcohol based hand rub was the guilty party and not the consultant surgeon.

    Nowadays, hand washing is a cornerstone of hospital good practice. The National Patient Safety Agency's Clean Your Hands campaign was deemed a success partially because of its initiative to provide hand sanitiser on each patient's bed. Perhaps the next step in the campaign should be to find a product with a more satisfactory odour.

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