Is it really that bad that patients had to tap a tambourine at Cardiff Royal Infirmary to get a nurse’s attention?

So yesterday, Cardiff Royal Infirmary were in the Daily Mail and the Metro. The reason was because nurses had asked patients to tap a tambourine to get their attention (or shake a pair of marracas in case the tambourine didn’t work).

Oh and there was outrage. So much fuss. I mean, it was quite a fuss if the Daily Mail reported on it. Here is an exerpt from the Daily Mail…

Yesterday the hospital was forced to apologise after an NHS watchdog described the policy as ‘unacceptable’ and criticised it for failing to install a proper alarm system.

The farcical arrangement was put in place at Cardiff Royal Infirmary after more than 30 elderly patients in the west wing complained that they were ‘too scared’ to use the day room in case staff did not hear their  calls for help.

The room is almost 40 yards from the nurses’ base at the Victorian hospital, which is notorious for its long corridors and has even been used to film episodes of Doctor Who. One relative said: ‘It is ridiculous. These people are pensioners – not members of the Monkees or Mick Jagger.

‘Where is the dignity in asking old and frail people to bash on a tambourine if they are in trouble? It makes the NHS look like a laughing stock.’

Another said he could not believe it when his 90-year-old mother told him about the tambourine ‘alarm’.

‘I thought she was joking but I went to the day room and there it was. I gave it a good hard shaking – but after 16 minutes I gave up as no one responded.’

When he questioned staff at  the hospital over the policy, he was told there was no money available for a more effective  call system. Steve Allen, chief officer of Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Community Health Council, said: ‘This is totally unacceptable and the health board must address this as a matter of concern.’

Yes. You’re undertanding correctly; a hospital that doesn’t have enough money had thought of the best solution available to them at the time to make sure that patients could call the nurse. Where is the issue?

But it seems like the relatives have an issue… not the patients. Which is why I’m commenting on the article, because it reminds me of the story of the Doctor who had a chat with a patient about God. And his mummy didn’t like it. The problem I have is the fact that these relatives don’t seem to think that the patients have a voice of their own. And I find that very patronising. OK, I hear what some of you will be saying… “but maybe they’re too scared” etc. Well, possibly… but I know a lot of people who work there, and there is no way that any abuse could be going on. We’re not in a care home here. We’re in the state NHS hospital. When relatives of patients start mouthing off about things that aren’t such a big deal, the ‘thing’ gets out of hand. And this has perfectly demonstrated itself in the fact that the news has been reported in the Daily Mail.

Would you rather bang a tambourine (ONLY because there is no call system installed) or would you rather wet yourself, or worse, keel over and die?

I know which one I’d choose. And I wouldn’t think I was like the Monkees or Mick Jagger either…

Original Daily Mail Article:


Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @

  • Dilys

    As a nurse myself, I can honestly say that if any patient were to be taken to the Day Room on a ward then they would be checked on at regular intervals. I know that the tambourine would merely be an insurance that if a patient needed a nurse in between those times then they could call. What is so wrong with that?!

    As for the fact a relative complained… I think that if you put yourself into their position you can imagine how worried and anxious you would be about your poorly relative, and you’d be looking to continually check that they were in a safe, secure, caring area. Unfortunately in this case, it would seem that a relative has overreacted to something which must have been working otherwise the system would have been revised. I think it would be wise to give the relative the benefit of the doubt, that they were merely looking out for vulnerable patients not trying to cause trouble.

    Although really what one has to ask is, is shaking a tambourine any less dignified than ringing a handbell? What’s the difference?