Ban on hospital flowers over MRSA fears are wrong
But new research and a survey among staff and patients at the Royal Brompton Hospital and the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, both in London, found there is little evidence to support some of the concerns around the presence of blooms on wards.
In a study by Giskin Day and Naiome Carter of Imperial College London, and published in bmj.com, it was even claimed flowers could help improve a patient’s health and recovery.
One of the reasons given to support the ban was that flower water contained high levels of bacteria, but subsequent research has found no evidence to suggest that it has ever caused a hospital acquired infection.
Southend University Hospital recently imposed a ban on flowers on the grounds that they posed a health and safety risk around high tech medical equipment.
But the report argues that flower vases are no more risky than having crockery containing drinks or food around bedsides.
Interviews with staff in this study however found that nurses were generally more concerned about the practical implications of managing flowers than risks of infection.
Other studies report that flowers have immediate and long term beneficial effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviours, and memory for men and women alike.
One trial found that patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate; lower ratings of pain, anxiety, and fatigue; and had more positive feelings.
The authors of the report said given that flowers and herbs have been used as remedies in the earliest hospitals, and as a means of cheering up the hospital environment for at least 200 years, it seems remarkable that flowers still tend to be treated in an ad hoc fashion in hospitals.
Although flowers undoubtedly can be a time consuming nuisance, the giving and receiving of flowers is a culturally important transaction, the report concludes.
In an accompanying editorial, Simon Cohn, a medical anthropologist at Cambridge University argues that flowers have fallen victim to new definitions of care.
Describing the decision to ban flowers, he said: “[The decision] seems to reflect a much broader shift towards a model of care that has little time or place for more messy and nebulous elements.”
Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said: “Most patients love flowers. The job of nurses is to be the patient’s advocate and carer. Surely it is not beyond management capabilities in a trust to ensure that the needs of patients and staff are accommodated.
“If flowers on wards pose such a problem, it’s no wonder that critical patient safety issues appear to be insoluble.”
Flowers are just one of the items to have fallen foul of strict hospital health and safety regulations.
Mobile phones have long been forbidden on many hospital wards, even though a government report in 2007 said there was no justification for a blanket ban.
Doctors were banned from wearing watches and jewellery last year because of fears that they were an infection hazard.
An NHS Trust in Sheffield also banned nurses from wearing Crocs shoes at work, as the static electricity they generated could disable hospital equipment.
Perhaps the strangest ban, though, was at the Fazakerly Hopsital in Liverpool, where the controversial ITV television programme The Jeremy Kyle Show has been banned after complaints that it was upsetting patients. Well you win some, you lose some.