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Nurses' fury at living in 'dump'

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: April 11, 2009

  • The kitchen has faults EE090409_08_04

  • Echo reporter Nadia Stone outside a nurses' accommodation block EE090409_08_06

  • The sparse bathroom EE090409_08_07

  • Gloomy bedroom living EE090409_08_08

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NURSES are paying hundreds of pounds a month to stay in what they claim is dirty and dilapidated hospital accommodation.

There are no showers and only poor cooking facilities available in accommodation blocks at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

And the nurses say their own health does not seem to be a priority.

They also argue that while other hospitals allow new nurses to stay in on-site accommodation free for six months, the RD&E charges £280 a month, rising to £360.

They claim the accommodation exacerbates their low morale after working long hours.

One nurse, who asked not to be named, said: "When I arrived I just thought ‘is this all they can offer me?’

"Everybody says they don’t want to have to pay much for this rubbish, just to live in a dump.

"It’s especially hard when we’ve had a bad day at work. We come back to this feeling depressed and it makes us feel worse."

Each block holds eight flats, which have four bedrooms in them, a bathroom, a toilet and a kitchen. With around eight blocks, there are more than 250 staff living in the units.

The nurse added: "In the kitchen we have two hobs but one side of the oven doesn’t work so we’ve only got one working hob.

"When I first came in the radiator wasn’t working. I asked to get it fixed and it didn’t happen. It was winter and it was so cold but they just wouldn’t fix it.

"A lot of the kitchen units need replacing — it’s all falling apart.

"The main issue is the washing. There’s no shower only a bath between four and we all tend to need it at the same time. If you’re working on an infected ward you come home and can’t even have a proper shower, you are washing in your own dirty water. It’s not hygienic, how do you ensure you’re properly clean when you go in the next day?

"It indirectly affects the patients. If we’re not happy and healthy then we’re more likely to get unwell and be off work."

She said she would not mind paying money for decent accommodation, but did not understand the high rent for such poor facilities.

"This is a wealthy trust, it’s got foundation status. I don’t understand why it can’t offer decent accommodation," she said.

"I could understand them charging if it was a nice place to be, but they never do anything to improve it so what’s the justification for charging us?"

Another nurse living in hospital accommodation, who also asked not to be named, said it was "more like a prison" than somewhere to live.

She said the staff worked such long hours that it was difficult to find alternative accommodation in the city, and coming back into a depressing place made it even harder to gather the motivation to look elsewhere. She said: "I’ve spoken to a lot of girls and they say how often they cry. I’m the same. Sometimes all of a sudden I just burst into tears.

"I don’t know if it’s the place or the job."

Another nurse, who used to live in a different hospital accommodation block, but recently moved out, said all the blocks were the same.

"I lived there for three years, and for those three years we were frequently without hot water and heating. It was freezing as the windows aren’t double-glazed and it’s constantly damp in the flats.

"There’s no landline and no internet, things didn’t work properly, and if you asked for things to be fixed, they never were."

A spokeswoman for the trust said she was concerned to hear of the complaints.

She said: "We seek to provide clean, comfortable and good quality accommodation to the staff who choose to live on site.

"The accommodation is cleaned weekly; we redecorate the rooms and communal areas on an annual rolling programme and, when notified, rapidly replace broken or faulty equipment."

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    Pat, honiton  |  April 12 2009, 4:35PM

    This is I¿m afraid nothing new; Nurses have always had to endure tough conditions. When I was training we had off duty ¿rations¿ which equated to war time rations; we had to cook in a very cold communal kitchen shared by eighteen of us who lived in, our rations frequently disappeared. The bathroom had one bath and several hand basins, which had no privacy, we were allowed one bath a week! There was no heating in the bedrooms and we often had to share with complete strangers. You could come off night duty to find your stuff had been moved to another room. There were no locks on the doors so no privacy. We had curfew of 9.30 or 10pm depending on if we were on duty next morning. We had to get written permission from our parents to go out with boyfriends. . We had to sign in and out. The door was locked at ten and if you got the porter to let you in you had to see Matron next morning. There were frequent power cuts and had to learn to dress to go on duty in the dark. We had to attend Sister Tutor¿s lectures, even if we were o night duty or day off. If you were on nights and had forgotten to draw back the curtains on the ward you were roused out of bed had to redress in uniform and go back on the ward to do the job. You may think I must be in my eighties to have had such experiences but no, this was in the sixties. It certainly weeded out the people who were less determined to make nursing their career. Many fell by the wayside, but aside from all that in my eyes there was no other job for me. There was nothing like the pleasure of seeing a patient who had come in very ill walk out of the ward to go home, and no that good nursing had helped their recovery.

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    rod gray, dawlish warren  |  April 12 2009, 1:18PM

    Reading nadias report and looking at the echo photographs of gloomy bedrooms, sparse bathrooms, malfunctioning kitchens, coupled with the lack of Wi Fi, and only being able to bath and not take a shower, and only having your room cleaned once a week, presumably with a linen change, Is the NHS shortchanging its Nursing staff.? Lots of jobs do not provide accommodation, and how much are nurses being charged for what may be seen as sub standard rented rooms and facilities. If staff are really that disappointed with what is provided for them, it is up to them to find something in the private sector which will no doubt provide what they require.

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    Anon, Devon  |  April 12 2009, 12:21PM

    We are not asking for luxury just a basic shower and an oven that takes less than 2 hours to warm up. Come on this is 2009, why are we being left in the dark ages?

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    A Nurse, Exeter  |  April 12 2009, 8:20AM

    After reading this article, I remember my times living in the residences nine years ago. Sounds like things haven't changed at all in those nine years! I too remember finishing my shifts and coming back to the accommodation feeling depressed and cold because of the dismal facilities.

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    Martin, Exeter  |  April 11 2009, 4:45PM

    Why is it that this sort of revelation always comes as such a shock to the authorities? Don't the Trust have any procedures in place to check the standard of the accommodation they are charging significant amounts for? How can we have faith in their ability to look after the patients in their care when they treat staff with so little respect.

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    Mrs Williams, Devon  |  April 11 2009, 1:46PM

    Run a bleached mop round & get on with it - this is average accommodation & they want wifi & en suite! - get real girls

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    Anon, Exeter  |  April 11 2009, 10:54AM

    That is appalling! I hope there will be enough support gained for the nurses to address this issue. These people choose Nursing as a vocation to help others and are being treated as sub-standard. It's about time the E&E adresses serious issues like this rather then people being clamped and giving that Apprentice Kate column inches. Rant over

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    Paul, Exeter  |  April 11 2009, 10:30AM

    Never no wonder hospitals wards/clinics are dirty etc if they are not even able to look after the people that are there to care for us in our hour of need!!!

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