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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Down the drain



Toilet rolls are the latest ‘saving’ that the NHS is making. Staff at one hospital trust, at least, in England (and most likely it’s not the only one), are no longer provided with toilet rolls in staff lavatories so must bring in their own from home. This latest inconvenience in the name of austerity is just one more penny pinching exercise at the front line of the NHS that doesn’t seem to be replicated further up the chain where organisations closer to the DH and the as yet ephemeral Public Health England are struggling to offload their budget under spends before 31 March 2013.
However, the sense of being undervalued that having to bring your own loo roll to work can only inspire, pales into insignificance in the light of the news that 2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet, worldwide. November 19th was World Toilet Day. For more information go to: http://www.worldtoiletday.org/index.php
And watch this short film produced as part of that event which brings home the indignity and embarrassment this might entail for us in the comfortable developed world: bit.ly/wtd2012a
But what the film does not demonstrate is the disease and despair that a lack of basic toilet hygiene brings.  The non disposal of human waste is an environmental health problem added to which the lack of hand washing means that disease can spread quickly and, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death among children under five years old. It is both treatable and preventable http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/index.html  
Improving access to sanitation is a basic and essential step to preventing these deaths. It is also a vital step in providing security and dignity to whole communities.  Public health, as is so often joked, is about drains. Of course it is so much more but even if it weren’t, it’s difficult to think of more essential health needs than good sewerage and a clean toilet (and loo roll).
Let’s hope that the NHS with all its talk of hand washing and reducing the spread of hospital acquired infections does not decide that toilets for staff are an unnecessary luxury.



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