If people want something to look at while they are in hospital, ask them what they would rather see: a qualified nurse approaching with a fresh bedpan or a dramatic black and white photo of the local area. Neither are particularly appealing especially if you're recovering from surgery but it's an urgent interior decoration dilemma that Kingston Hospital is facing at the moment.
In an email leaked last Friday to the London Health Emergency (LHE), it was revealed that £18,000 of the hospital's budget will be spent on photographs of the local area, possibly specially commissioned, for the interiors of the new surgical centre due to open this summer. While £18,000 out of the £34million Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding for the centre doesn't sound like much, it suddenly leaps into perspective when a spokesman from LHE points out £18,000 is the average wage of a nurse.
£4million of cuts are going to be made to Kingston Hospital this year and 20 posts have already been made redundant. As it has been strenuously impressed upon us by a spokeswoman for Kingston Hospital, having nice surroundings and uplifting art has been proven to speed up the recovery process for many patients which is no doubt true; art does more than sit on a canvas nailed to a wall. However, we particularly enjoyed the crisp response of Nora Pearce, midwife and Unison representative which was "I am sure research shows patients recover better when wards are well staffed."
Nice one. The Surrey Comet has offered the hospital free use of its own photographic archives to decorate the new surgical ward; LHE and Unison have suggested the hospital organises submissions from local schools, colleges and hospital staff for the bare walls. Kingston Hospital has yet to respond.
We believe that decoration will inevitably find its way on to the walls if left empty long enough, and all this squabbling over money, budgets and cuts will be irrelevant. Any blank wall in a public hospital will attract the idle ballpoint pen of a bored child visiting a distant relation in recovery and the standard smiley face / penis with hairy scrotum / flower pot with single flower and leaf will find its way into all the hearts, minds and freshly painted bits of plaster of the hospital, whatever happens to the proposed photo display.