Louisa Jordan was a fine nurse but Joseph Lister is a far better choice for our NHS Crisis centre

Louisa Jordan was a fine nurse but Joseph Lister is a far better choice for our NHS Crisis centre

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Thursday 9, April, 2020

IT HAS BEEN a difficult few weeks for Scotland in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our Prime Minister is sick in intensive care. He cuts a powerful figure because he is also now our Prime Patient. His immune system, like those of many, is the frontline against this virus for as long as no cure is available. As the WW2 bombing of the Buckingham Palace allowed the late Queen Mother to, "look the East End in the face", so too will Boris's captain's innings bring home to us all the harsh reality of universal susceptibility to this terrible disease.

While that message was forced upon him, the First Minister of Scotland was never going to be so patient or hopeful of fate. No sooner had the British Army finalised plans to construct a Nightingale hospital in Glasgow than Ms Sturgeon thought it was appropriate to name it after a WW1 nurse, Louisa Jordan instead of Florence Nightingale.

Jordan was by all accounts a fine nurse who died serving her patients. There is a problem here though. She was a quite ordinary nurse whose contribution to history was one of self-sacrifice – having died from the same infection – typhus – that was killing her patients in Serbia. Given the furore over the lack of personal protective equipment for NHS staff (including myself soon enough) it was an odd choice. Was it because she was a woman? Cynical me! Then again maybe it was because she was from Glasgow and Scotland?

That gets me thinking about another famous adopted Glaswegian who made a colossal contribution to healthcare. The founder of antiseptic surgery, Sir Joseph Lister.

A radical in his time, he pioneered the use of carbolic acid to kill bacteria around the edges of wounds to reduce infection, and insisted on clean gloves for his surgeons for each operation. He also then contributed to the idea of personal protective equipment in an era where a surgeon's success was often measured by how bloody his apron was. He spent many years working across the UK and his contribution to surgery is beyond doubt. Maybe he could not be considered because he was a man? Or maybe it was because at he was an Englishman who 'made good' first at the University of Edinburgh and then Glasgow? A beacon of the benefits of the union might be indigestible to the English haters in the nationalist movement?

The reason these hospitals erected across the UK by the British Army are referred to as Nightingale's in England is as much to do with their layout as they are as homage to one of the greatest ever nurses. Driven to her calling by horrific casualities in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale revolutionalised healthcare professionalism, and was intolerant of failure and excuses. If this did not intimidate Nicola Sturgeon and lead her away from remembering this inspiring light of humanity then maybe some of her quotes did so.

"How very little can be done under the spirit of fear"

 "It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital that it should do the sick no harm"

From these quotes I am in no doubt. The NHS in Scotland needs our Victorian heroes of medicine as much as now as we ever did, regardless of where in these islands they were born.

Dr Jonathan Stanley has returned to the NHS to help fight the Covid-19 Pandemic

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