Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Life and Death

Do not sit on the bed

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 17 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1478
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath22{at}

    Rules that mostly diminish rather than enhance the joys of life have no place in hospitals, where joy is too often in short supply

    Still trying to come to terms with the widespread banning of flowers from hospital wards (BMJ 2009;339:b5406, doi:10.1136/bmj.b5406), I learnt recently from senior nursing colleagues that sitting on a patient’s bed, by either visitors or clinicians, is now also prohibited, apparently in the interests of infection control. A quick internet search of “sitting on the bed” and “infection control” produces a huge list of leaflets from a variety of hospital trusts across the country, from Northumberland to Cornwall, each reinforcing the prohibition. My immediate reaction is to thank all my lucky stars that I have been able to spend my career in general practice, where flowers are still welcome and sitting on the patient’s bed positively encouraged.

    Doctors should never be discouraged from sitting, because patients consistently estimate that they have been given more time when the doctor sits down rather than stands. Standing makes the conversation seem hurried even when it is not; and, …

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