Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2009: Professional matters

Where have all the hospital flowers gone?

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 17 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5406

Flower power outdated in today’s NHS

To ban cheerful displays of hospital flowers does seem a shade
puritanical at first sight, but as Simon Cohn points out, there is more to
it than meets the eye. They are, after all, symbolic of old fashioned
sentimental values and not strictly necessary to the serious business of
care in the modernised NHS. For the same reason, the “messy” arrangements
based on informal benevolence, whereby doctors elected to remain on call
out of hours, have been swept aside by the European Time Directive.
Bureaucracy now rules supreme, just as it did in Soviet Russia, which
banned art and poetry and replaced ornate buildings with a simpler and
less pretentious style which we now see as drab and austere.
It is part of a wider trend which is also, for example, banning very many
of the most useful materials formerly used in perfumes – another category
of frivolous and unnecessary objects – such that many of the most
beautiful perfumes can no longer be made. The draconian nature of the
legislation has caused dismay and protest among perfumers, who have
questioned its rationality. The problem perhaps is that whereas individual
human beings are usually well meaning, the bureaucracy they create can be
cold and humourless, producing edicts and demands for political
correctness which sometimes run counter to common sense.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 January 2010
John R King
Locum Consultant Psychiatrist
Assertive Outreach Team (North), 3 Millenium Court, Bruntsford Park Road, Bromsgrove B60 3DX, Worcs